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THE 

S 1^] AD W OF ASH LA^D^AT 




THE LIBRARY OF THE 
UNIVERSITY OF 
NORTH CAROLINA 



ENDOWED BY THE 
DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 
SOCIETIES 



PR5842 
.W8 

S5 

1888 




This book is due at the WALTER R. DAVIS LIBRARY on 

the last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold, it may 

be renewed by bringing it to the library. 



DATE DUE 



DEC !La 



RETURNED 



DATE DUE 



RETURNED 



FORM NO 513. 
REV. 1/84 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/shadowofashlydyaOOwood_0 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



* ' Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold and relentless, 
Thoughts of what miffVi have been, and the weight and woe of his 
All the dreams that hu . faded, and all the hopes that had vanished, 
AD liis life henceforth a dreary and tenantless mansion, 
Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces." 

Longfellow. 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



MRS. HENRY WOOD, 

AUTHOR OF 

"EAST LYNNE," "THE CHANNINGS," "JOHNNY LUDLOW," ETC. 




LONDON: 

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 
Piiilisi&ers in ©rJinarg to f§er iffllajesta tftj ©ueen. 
1888. 

{^All rights reserved.') 



LONDON : 

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, 
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS. 





CONTENTS. 






PART THE FIRST. 




CHAPTER 




I. 


The Meet of the Hounds 


I 


II. 


Lady Godolphin's Folly 


9 


III. 


The Dark Plain in the Moonlight 


... 17 


IV. 


All Souls' Rectory ... 


24 


V. 


Thomas Godolphin's Love 


33 


VI. 


Charlotte Pain 


41 


VII. 


Broomhead 


... 45 


VIII. 


A Snake in the Grass 


52 


IX. 


Mr, Sandy's "Trade" 


... 60 


X. 


The Shadow ... 


66 


XL 


A Telegraphic Despatch 


73 


XII. 


Dead... 


80 


XIII. 


Unavailing Regrets 


... 85 


XIV. 


Gone on before 


91 


XV. 


A Midnight Walk 


... 99 


XVI. 


The Last Journey 


105 


XVII. 


A Row on the Water 


... 113 


XVIII. 


Straw in the Streets 


119 


XIX. 


One Stick discarded 


... 125 


XX. 


A Revelation to All Souls' Rector 


138 


XXI. 


Charlotte's Bargain 


... 146 


XXII. 


Dangerous Amusement 


156 



vi 



CONTENTS. 



PART THE SECOND. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Sixty Pounds to Old Jekyl ... ... ... i66 

II. Why did it anger him? ... ... ... 173 

III. Cecil's Romance ... ... ... 179 

IV. Charlotte Pain's "Turn-out" ... ... 185 

V. A Revelation ... ... ... ... ... 191 

VI. Mr. Verrall's Chambers ... ... 202 

VII. Beyond Recall ... ... ... ... 208 

VIII. The Tradition of the Dark Plain ... ... 216 

IX. The Dead alive again ... ... ... ... 225 

X. Nine Thousand and Forty-five Pounds ... 236 

XI. Those Bonds again ! ... ... ... ... 239 

XII. '^I see it: but I cannot explain it" ... 244 

XIII. A Red-letter Day for Mrs. Bond ... ... 258 

XIV. Isaac Hastings turns to thinking ... ... 267 

XV. A Nightmare for the Rector of All Souls' ... 272 

XVI. Mr. Layton looked up" ... ... ... 278 

XVII. Gone! ... ... ... ... ... ... 290 

XVIII. Murmurs; and Curious Doubts ... .. 294 

XIX. Bobbing Joan ... ... ... ... ... 302 

XX. Mrs. Bond's Visit ... ... ... ... 310 

XXI. A Dread Fear ... ... ... ... ... 315 

XXII. Bearing the Brunt ... ... ... ... 329 

XXIII. **As Fine as a Queen!" .., ... ... ... 343 

XXIV. A Visit to Lord Averil ... ... ... 356 

XXV. In the Streets of Prior's Ash ... ... ... 367 

XXVI. My Lady washes her Hands ... ... 377 

XXVII. A Broken Idol 382 





CONTENTS. 

- _ V,, _ ,■ 


vii 




PART THE THIRD. 




CHAPTER 


PAGE 


I. 


A Morning Call .. . 


• • 394 


II. 


Nearer and Nearer ... 


405 


III. 


For the Last Time 


... 409 


IV. 


Gathered to his Fathers 


423 


V. 


Commotion at Ashlydyat 


••• 434 


VI. 


A Crowd of Memories 


446 


VII. 


At Rest ... 


... 458 


VIII. 


A Sad Parting 


466 


IX. 


A Safe Voyage to him ! ... 


... 470 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



CHAPTER L 

THE MEET OF THE HOUNDS. 

It was a bright day in autumn : the scene one of those fair ones rarely 
witnessed except in England. The sun, warm and glowing, almost as 
that of a summer's day, shone on the stubble of the cornfields, whence 
the golden grain had recently been gathered ; gilded the tops of the 
trees — so soon to pass into the sere and yellow leaf ; " illumined the 
blue hills in the distance, and brought out the nearer features of the 
landscape in all their light and shade. A fine landscape, comprising 
hill and dale, water and green pastures, woods and open plains. 
Amidst them rose the signs of busy life ; mansions, cottages, hamlets, 
railways, and churches, whose steeples ascended high, pointing the 
way to a better Land. 

The town of Prior's Ash, lying in a valley, was alive that gay morn- 
ing with excitement. It was the day appointed for the first meet 
of the hounds ; the P. A. hounds, of some importance in the county ; 
and people from far and near were flocking to see them throw off. 
Old and young, gentle and simple, lords of the soil and tradesmen, 
all were wending their way to the meet. The master, Colonel Max, 
was wont on this, the first morning of the season, to assemble at his 
house for breakfast as many as his large dining-room could by any 
species of crowding contain ; and it was a fine sight, drawing forth its 
numerous spectators to watch them come out in procession, to the 
meet. As many carriages-and-four, with their fair occupants, would 
come to that first meet, as you could have seen in the old days on a 
country race-course. This show was an old-fashioned local custom ; 
Colonel Max was pleased to keep it up, and he lacked not supporters. 
The opening this year was unusually early. 

The gay crowd was arriving, some from the breakfast, some from 
their homes. The rendezvous was a wide, open common, with no 
space wanting. The restrained hounds snarled away at a short dis- 
tance, and their attendants, attired for the hunt, clacked their whips 
among them. 

Riding a noble horse, and advancing from the opposite direction to 
that of Colonel Max and his guests, came a tall, stately man, getting 
in years now. His features were regular as though they had been 
chiselled from marble: his fine blue eyes could sparkle yet; and his 
snow-white hair, wavy as of yore, was worn rather long i^eiunuj givmg 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 1 



2 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDVAT. 



him somewhat the appearance of a patriarch. But the heaUhy bloom, 
once characteristic of his face, had left it now : the paleness of ill- 
health sat there, and he bent his body, as if too weak to bear up on 
his horse. His approach was discerned ; and many started forward, 
as with one impulse, to greet him. None stood higher in the estima- 
of his fellow-men than did Sir George Godolphin ; no other name was 
more respected in the county. 

i " This is good indeed. Sir George ! To see you out again ! " 
i " I thought I might venture," said Sir George, essaying to meet a 
dozen hands at once. ^' It has been a long confinement ; a tedious 
illness. Six months, and never out of the house ; and, for the last 
fortnight, out only in a garden-chair. My lady wanted, to box me up 
in the carriage this morning ; if I must come, she said. But I would 
not have it : had I been unable to sit my horse, I would have remained 
at home." 

You fell weak still ? " remarked one, after most of the greeters had 
had their say, and were moving away. 

Ay. Strength, for me, has finally departed, I fear." 

" You must not think that. Sir George. Now that you have so far 
recovered as to go out, you will improve daily." 

" And get well all one way, Godolphin,'' joined in the hearty voice of 
Colonel Max. " Never lose heart, man." 

Sir George turned his eyes upon Colonel Max with a cheerful glance* 

Who told you I was losing heart ? " 

Yourself. When a man begins to talk of his strength having 
finally departed, what's that, but a proof of his losing heart ? Low 
spirits never cured any one yet : but they have killed thousands." 

" I shall be sixty-six years old to-morrow, colonel : and if, at that 
age, I can * lose heart ' at the prospect of the great change, my life has 
served me to little purpose. The young may faint at the near approach 
of death ; the old should not." 

" Sixty-six, old ! " ejaculated Colonel Max. I have never kept 
count of my own age, but I know I am that if I am a day; and I 
am young yet. I may live these thirty years to come : and shall try for 
it, too." 

I hope you will, colonel," was the warm answer of Sir George 
Godolphin. " Prior's Ash could ill spare you." 

I don't know about that," laughed the colonel. " But I do know 
that I could ill spare life. I wish you could take the run with us this 
morning ! " 

I wish I coilld. But that you might accuse me of— what was it ? 
— losing heart, I would say that my last run with the hounds has been 
taken. It has cost me an effort to come so far as this, walkings my 
horse at a snail's pace. Do you see Lady Godolphin ? She ought to 
be here." 

Colonel Max, who was a short man, raised himself in his stirrupsy 
and gazed from point to point of the gradually increasing crowd. Iri 
her carriage, I suppose ? " 

In her carriage, of course," answered Sir George. " She is no 
amazon." But he did not avOW his reason for inquiring after his 
wife's carriage — that he felt a giddiness stealing over him, and thought 



THE MEET OF THE HOUNDS. 



3 



lie might be glad of its support. Neither did he explain that he was 
unable to look round for it himself just then, under fear of falling from 
his horse. 

" I don't think she has come yet," said Colonel Max. I do not 
see the livery. As to the ladies, they all look so hke one another now, 
with their furbelows and feathers, that I'll be shot if I should know 
my own wife — if I had one — at a dozen paces' distance. Here is some 
one else, however.'^ 

Riding up quietly, and reining in at the side of Sir George, was a 
gentleman of middle height, with dark hair, dark grey eyes, and a 
quiet, pale countenance. In age he may have wanted some three or 
four years of forty, and a casual observer might have pronounced him 

insignificant," and never have cast on him a second glance. But 
there was a certain attraction in his face which won its way to hearts ; 
and his voice sounded wonderfully sweet and kind as he grasped the 
hand of Sir George. 

" My dear father ! I am so glad to see you here ! " 

"And surprised too, I conclude, Thomas," returned Sir George, 
smiling on his son. Come closer to me, will you, and let me rest my 
arm upon your shoulder for a minute. I feel somewhat giddy." 

" Should you have ventured out on horseback ? " inquired Thomas 
Godolphin, as he hastened to place himself in proximity with his 
father. 

" The air will do me good ; and the exertion also. It is nothing to 
feel a little weak after a confinement such as mine has been. You 
don't follow the hounds to-day, I see, Thomas," continued Sir George, 
noting his son's plain costume. 

A smile crossed Thomas Godolphin's lips. " No, sir. I rarely do 
follow them. I leave amusement to George." 

" Is he here, that graceless George ? " demanded the knight, searching 
into the crowd with fond and admiring eyes. But the admiring eyes 
did not see the object they thought to rest on. 

" He is sure to be here, sir. I have not seen him." 
And your sisters ? Are they here ? " 

" No. They did not care to come." 
Speak for Janet and Cecil, if you please, Thomas," interrupted a 
young lady's voice at this juncture. The knight looked down ; his son 
looked down also : there stood the second daughter of the family, 
Bessy Godolphin. She was a dark, quick, active httle woman of thirty, 
with an ever-ready tongue, and deep grey eyes. 

" Bessy! " uttered Sir George, in astonishment. "Have you come 
here on foot ? " 

" Yes, papa. Thomas asked us whether we wished to attend the 
meet ; and Janet — who must always be master and mistress, you 
know— answered that we did not. Cecil dutifully agreed with her. I 
did care to attend it ; so I came alone." 

" But, Bessy, why did you not say so ? " remonstrated Mr. Godolphin, 
" You should have ordered the carriage ; you should not have come ort 
foot. What will people think ? " 

"Think!" she echoed, holding up her pleasant face to her brother^ 
in its saucy independence. " They can think anything they please ; I 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



am Bessy Godolphin. I wonder how many scores have come on 
foot?" 

" None, Bessy, of your degree, who have carriages to sit in or horses 
to ride," said Sir George. 

Papa, I hke to use my legs better than to have them cramped 
under a habit or in a carriage ; and you know I never could bend to 
form and fashion," she said, laughing. Dear papa, I am delighted 
to see you ! I was so thankful when I heard you were here ! Janet 
will be ready to eat her own head now, for not coming." 
" Who told you I was here, Bessy ? " 

Old Jekyl. He was leaning on his palings as I came by, and called 
out the information to me almost before I could hear him. ^ The 
master's gone to it, Miss Bessy ! he is out once again ! But he had 
not on his scarlet,' the old fellow added ; and his face lost its gladness. 
Papa, the whole world is delighted that you should have recovered, and 
be once more amongst them." 

Not quite recovered yet, Bessy. Getting better, though : getting 
better. Thank you, Thomas ; the faintness has passed." 
^' Is not Lady Godolphin here, papa ? " 

She must be here by this time. I wish I could see her carriage : 
you must get into it." 

I did not come for that, papa," returned Bessy, with a touch of her 
warm temper. 

" My dear, I wi'sk you to join her. I do not hke to see you here on 
foot.'^ 

" I shall set the fashion, papa," laughed Bessy, again. At the 
great meet next year, you will see half the pretenders of the county 
toiling here on foot. I say I am Bessy Godolphin." 

The knight ranged his eyes over the motley group, but he could not 
discern his wife. Sturdy, bluff old fox-hunters were there in plenty, 
and well-got-up young gentlemen, all on horseback, their white cords 
and scarlet coats gleaming ia the sun. Ladies were chiefly in car- 
riages ; a few were mounted, who would ride quietly home again when 
the hounds had thrown off ; a very few — they might be counted by 
units — would follow the field. Prior's Ash and its neighbourhood was 
supplied in a very limited degree with what they were pleased to call 
masculine women : for the term " fast " had not then come in. Many 
a pretty woman, many a pretty girl was present, and the sportsmen 
lingered, and were well pleased to linger, in the sunshine of their 
charms, ere the business, for which they had come out, began, and 
they should throw themselves, heart and energy, into it. 

On the outskirts of the crowd, sitting her horse well, was a hand- 
some girl of right regal features and flashing black eyes. Above the 
ordinary height of woman, she was finely formed, her waist slender, 
her shoulders beautifully modelled. She wore a peculiar dress, and, 
from that cause alone, many eyes were on her. A well-fitting habit of 
bright grass-green, the corsage ornamented with buttons of silver-gilt ; 
similar buttons were also at the wrists, but they were partially hidden 
by her white gauntlets. A cap, of the same iDright green, rested on 
the upper part of her forehead, a green-and-gold feather on its left side 
glittering as the sun's rays played upon it. It was a style of dress which 



THE MEET OF THE HOUNDS. 



S 



had not yet been seen r.t Prior's Ash, and was regarded with some 
doubt. But, as you are aware, it is not a dress in itself which is con- 
demned or approved : it depends upon who wears it : and as the young 
lady wearing this was just now the fashion at Prior's Ash, feather and 
habit were taken into favour forthwith. She could have worn none 
more adapted to her peculiar style of beauty. 

Bending to his very saddle-bow, as he talked to her — for, though 
she was tall, he was taller still — was a gentleman of courtly mien. In 
his fine upright figure, his fair complexion and wavy hair, his chiselled 
features and dark blue eyes, might be traced a strong resemblance to 
Sir George Godolphin. But the lips had a more ready smile upon 
them than Sir George's had ever worn, for his had always been some- 
what of the sternest the blue eyes twinkled with a gayer light when 
gazing into other eyes, than could ever have been charged upon Sir 
George. But the bright complexion had been Sir George's once; 
giving to his face, as it now did to his son's, a dehcate beauty, almost 
as that of woman. Graceless George," old Sir George was fond of 
calling him ; but it was an appellation given in love, in pride, in admi- 
ration. He bent to his saddle-bow, and his gay blue eyes flashed 
with unmistakable admiration into those black ones as he talked to the 
lady : and the black eyes most certainly flashed admiration back again. 
Dangerous eyes were those of Charlotte Pain's ! And not altogether 
lovable. 

" Do you always keep your promises as you kept that one yesterday?" 
she was asking him. 

" I did not make a promise yesterday — that I remember. Had I 
made one to you, I should have kept it." 

" Fickle and faithless," she cried. " Men's promises are as words 
traced upon the sand. When you met me yesterday in the carriage 
with Mrs. Verrall, and she asked you to take compassion on two forlorn 
dames, and come to Ashlydyat in the evening and dissipate our ennui, 
what was your answer ? " 

" That I would do so, if it were possible." 
Was nothing more exphcit implied ? " 

George Godolphin laughed. Perhaps his conscience told him that 
he /lad implied more, in a certain pressure he remeiiibered giving to 
that fair hand, which was resting now, gauntleted, upon her reins. 
Gay George had meant to dissipate Ashlydyat's ennui, if nothing more 
tempting offered. But something more tempting did offer: and he 
had spent the evening in the company of one who was more to him 
than was Charlotte Pain. 

"An unavoidable engagement arose, Miss Pain. Otherwise you 
may rely upon it I should have been at Ashlydyat." 

" Unavoidable ! " she replied, her eyes gleaming with something very 
like anger into those which smiled on her. " I know what your en- 
gagement was. You were at Lady Godolphin's Folly." 

" Right. Commanded to it by my father." 

"Oh!" 

" Solicited, if not absolutely commanded," he continued. " And a 
wish from Sir George now bears its weight : we may not have him very 
|png with us." 



6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



A smile of mockery, pretty and fascinating to look upon, played 
upon her rich red lips. " It is edifying to hear these fihal sentiments 
expressed by Mr. George Godolphin ! Take you care, sir, to act up to 
them." 

"Do you think I need the injunction ? How shall I make my peace 
with you " 

" By coming to Ashlydyat some other evening while the present 
moon lasts. I mean, while it illumines the early part of the evening." 

She dropped her voice to a low key, and her tone had changed to 
seriousness. George Godolphin looked at her in surprise. 

" What is the superstition," she continued to whisper, " that attaches 
to Ashlydyat ? " 

" Why do you ask me this ? " he hastily said. 

" Because, yesterday evening, when I was sitting on that seat under 
the ash-trees, watching the road from Lady Godolphin's Folly — well, 
watching for you, if you like it better : but I can assure you there is 
nothing in the avowal that need excite your vanity, as I see it is doing. 
When a gentleman makes a promise, I expect him to keep it ; and, 
looking upon your coming as a matter of course, I did watch for you ; 
as I might watch for one of Mrs. Verrall's servants, had I sent him on 
an errand and expected his return." 

"Thank you," said George Godolphin, with a laugh* "But suffer 
my vanity to rest in abeyance for a while, will you, and go on with 
what you were saying ? " 

" Are you a convert to the superstition ? " she inquired, disregarding 
the request. 

" N — o," replied George Godolphin. But his voice sounded strangely 
indecisive. " Pray continue, Charlotte." 

It was the first time he had ever called her by her Christian name : 
and though she saw that it was done in the unconscious excitement of 
the moment, her cheeks flushed to a deeper crimson. 

" Did you ever see the Shadow ? " she breathed. 

He bowed his head. 

" What form does it take ? " 

George Godolphin did not answer. He appeared lost in thought, as 
he scored his horse's neck with his hunting-whip. 

" The form of a bier, on which rests something covered with a pall, 
that may be supposed to be a coffin ; with a mourner at the head and 
one at the foot ? " she whispered. 

He bowed his head again : very gravely. 

" Then I saw it last night. I did indeed. I was sitting under the 
ash-trees, and I saw a strange shadow in the moonlight that I had 
never seen before " 

" Where ? " he interrupted. 

" In that wild-looking part of the grounds as you look across from 
the ash-trees. Just in front of the archway, where the ground is bare. 
It was there. Mr. Verrall says he wonders Sir George does not have 
those gorse-bushes cleared away, and the ground converted into 
civilized land, like the rest of it." 

" It has been done, but the bushes grow again." 

"Wellj I was sitting there, and I saw this unusual shadow. It 



THE MEET OF THE HOUNDS. 



7 



arrested my eye at once. Where did it come from, I wondered : what 
cast it ? I never thought of the Ashlydyat superstition ; never for a 
moment. I only thought what a strange appearance the shadow wore. 
I thought of a lying-in-state ; I thought of a state funeral, where the 
cofftn rests on a bier, and a mourner sits at the head and a mourner at 
the foot. Shall I tell you," she suddenly broke off, " what the scene 
altogether looked like ? " 
" Do so." 

Like a graveyard. They may well call it the Dark Plain ! The 
shadow might be taken for a huge tomb with two images weeping over 
it, and the bushes around assumed the form of lesser ones. Some, 
square ; some, long ; some, high j some, low ; but all looking not unlike 
graves in the moonlight." 

" Moonhght shadows are apt to bear fanciful forms to a vivid imagi- 
nation, Miss Pain," he lightly observed. 

Have not others indulged the same fancy before me? I remember 
to have heard so." 

As they have said. They never took the form to my sight," he re- 
turned, with a half-smile of ridicule. "When I know bushes to be 
bushes, I cannot by any stretch of imagination magnify them into 
graves. You must have had this Ashlydyat nonsense in your head." 

I have assured you that I had not," she rejoined in a firm tone. "It 
was only after I had been regarding it for some time — and the longer I 
looked, the plainer the shadow seemed to grow— that I thought of the 
Ashlydyat tale. All in an instant the truth flashed upon me — that it 

must be the apparition " 

"The what, Miss Pain?" 

" Does the word offend you ? It is 7\, foolish one. The Shadow, then. 
I remembered that the Shadow, so dreaded by the Godolphins, did take 
the form of a bier, with mourners weeping at its " 

" Was said to "take it," he interposed, in a tone of quiet reproof ; 
" that would be the better phrase. And, in speaking of the Shadow 
being dreaded by the Godolphins, you allude, I presume, to the Godol- 
phins of the past ages. I know of none in the present who dread it : 
except my superstitious sister, Janet." 

" How touchy you are upon the point !" she cried, with a light laugh. 
"Do you know, George Godolphin, that that very touchiness betrays 
the fact that you, for one, are not exempt from the dread. And," she 
added, changing her tone again to one of serious sympathy, " did not 
the dread help to kill Mrs. Godolphin ? " 

" No," he gravely answered. " If you give ear to all the stories that 
the old wives of the neighbourhood love to indulge in, you will collect 
a valuable stock of fable-lore." 

" Let it pass. If I repeated the fable, it was because I had heard it. 
But now you will understand wfiy I felt vexed last night when you did 
not come. It was not for your sweet company I was pining, as your 
vanity has been assuming, but that I wanted you to see the Shadow. — 
How that girl is fixing her eyes upon us ! " 

George Godolphin turned at the last sentence, which was uttered 
abruptly. An open barouche had drawn up, and its occupants, two 
ladies, were both looking towards them, The one was a young girl; 



8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



with a pale gentle face and dark eyes, as remarkable for their refined 
sweetness, as Miss Pain's were for their brilliancy. The other was a 
little lady of middle age, dressed youthfully, and whose naturally fair 
complexion was so excessively soft and clear, as to give a suspicion 
that nature had less hand in it than art. It was Lady Godolphin, She 
held her eye-glass to her eye, and turned it on the crowd. 

" Maria, whatever is that on horseback ? " she asked. " It looks 
green." 

It is Charlotte Pain in a bright-green riding-habit," was the young 
lady's answer. 

" A bright-green riding-habit 1 And her head seems to glitter ! Has 
she anything in her cap ? " 

It appears to be a gold feather." 

She must look beautiful ! Very handsome, does she not ? " 

"For those who admire her style — very," replied Maria Hastings. 

Which was certainly not the style of Maria Hastings. Quiet, re- 
tiring, gentle, she could only wonder at those who dressed in bright- 
coloured habits with gold buttons and feathers, and followed the 
hounds over gates and ditches. Miss Hastings wore a pretty white 
silk bonnet, and grey cashmere mantle. Nothing could be plainer; 
but then, she was a clergyman's daughter. 

" It is on these occasions that I regret my deficient sight," said Lady 
Godolphin. " Who is that, in scarlet, talking to her ? It resembles 
the figure of George Godolphin." 

It is he," said Maria. " He is coming towards us." 

He was piloting his horse through the throng, returning greetings 
from every one. A universal favourite was George Godolphin. Char- 
lotte Pain's fine eyes were following him with somewhat dimmed 
brilliancy : he was not so entirely hers as she could wish to see him. 

" How are you this morning. Lady Godolphin?" But it was on the 
hand of Maria Hastings that his own lingered ; and her cheeks took 
the hue of Charlotte Pain's, as he bent low to whisper words that were 
all too dear. 

" George, do you know that your father is here ? " said Lady 
Godolphin. 

George, in his surprise, drew himself upright on his horse. " My 
father here ! Is he, indeed ? " 

" Yes ; and on horseback. Very unwise of him ; but he would not 
be persuaded out of it. It was a sudden resolution that he appeared to 
take. I suppose the beauty of the morning tempted him. Miss Maria 
Hastings, what nonsense has George been saying to you? Your face 
is as red as his coat." 

That is what I was saying to her," laughed George Godolphin. 
" Asking her where her cheeks had borrowed their roses from." 

A parting of the crowd brought Sir George Godolphin within view, 
and the family drew together in a group. Up went Lady Godolphin's 
glass again. 

"Is that Bessy ? My dear, with whom did you come ? " 
" I came by myself, Lady Godolphin. I walked." 
" Oh dear ! " uttered Lady Godolphin. " You do do the wildest things, 
Bessy ! And Sir George allows you to do them ! " 



LADY GODOLPHIN'S FOLLY. 



9 



" Sir George does not," spoke the knight. " Sir George has abeady 
desired her to take her place in the carriage. Open the door, James." 

Bessy laughed as she stepped into it. She cheerfully obeyed her 
father ; but anything like ceremony, or, as the world may call it, 
etiquette, she waged war with. 

" I expected to meet your sisters here, Bessy," said Lady Godolphin. 
" I want you all to dine with me to-day. We must celebrate the first 
reappearance of your father. You will bear the invitation to them." 

" Certainly," said Bessy. " We shall be happy to come. I know 
Janet has no engagement." 

" An early dinner, mind : five o'clock. Sir George cannot wait." 

" To dine at supper-time," chimed in unfashionable Bessy. " George, 
do you hear ? Lady Godolphin's at five." 

A movement ; a rush ; a whirl. The hounds were preparing to throw 
off, and the field was gathering. George Godolphin hastily left the side 
of Miss Hastings, though he found time for a stolen whisper. 

^' Fare you well, my dearest." 

And when she next saw him, after the noise and confusion had 
cleared away, he was galloping in the wake of the baying pack, side by 
side with Charlotte Pain. 



CHAPTER IL 

LADY godolphin's FOLLY. 

Prior's Ash was not a large town, though of some importance in 
county estimation. In the days of the monks, when all good people 
were Roman Catholics, or professed to be, it had been but a handful of 
houses, which various necessities had caused to spring up round the 
priory : a flourishing and crowded establishment of religious men 
then ; a place marked but by a few ruins now. In process of time 
the handful of houses had increased to several handfuls, the handfuls 
to a village, and the village to a borough town ; still retaining the 
name bestowed on it by the monks — Prior's Ash." 

In the heart of the town was situated the banking-house of 
Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin. It was an old-established and 
most respected firm, sound and wealthy. The third partner and 
second Godolphin, mentioned in it, was Thomas Godolphin, Sir 
George Godolphin's eldest son. Until he joined it, it had been 
Godolphin and Crosse. It was a matter of arrangement, understood 
by Mr. Crosse, that when anything happened to Sir George, Thomas 
would step into his father's place, as head of the firm, and George, 
whose name at present did not appear, though he had been long in the 
bank, would represent the last name ; so that it would still remain 
Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin. Mr. Crosse, who, like Sir George, 
was getting in years, was remarkable for nothing but a close attention 
to business. He was a widower, without children, and Prior's Ash 
wondered who would be the better for the fiUing of his garners. 

The Godolphins could trace back to the ages of the monks. But of 



lo THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 

no very high ancestry boasted they ; no titles, places, or honours ; 
they ranked among the landed gentry as owners of Ashlydyat, and 
that was all. It was quite enough for them : to be lords of Ashlydyat 
was an honour they would not have bartered for a dukedom. They 
held by Ashlydyat. It was their pride, their stronghold, their boast. 
Had feudal times been in fashion now, they would have dug a moat 
around it, and fenced it in with fortifications, and called it their castle. 
Why did they so love it ? It was but a poor place at best ; nothing to 
look at ; and, in the matter of space inside, was somewhat straitened. 
Oak-panelled rooms, dark as mahogany and garnished with cross 
beams, low ceilings, and mullioned windows, are not the most consonant 
to modern taste. People thought that the Godolphins loved it from 
its associations and traditions ; from the very fact that certain super- 
stitions attached to it. Foolish superstitions, you will be inclined to 
call them, as contrasted with the enlightenment of these matter-of-fact 
days — I had almost said these days of materiahsm. 

Ashlydyat was not entailed. There was a clause in the old deeds of 
tenure which prevented it. A wicked Godolphin (by which compli- 
mentary appellation his descendants distinguished him) had cut off the 
entail, and gambled the estate away ; and though the Godolphins re- 
covered it again in the course of one or two lives, the entail was not 
renewed. It was now bequeathed from father to son, and was always 
the residence of the reigning Godolphin. Thomas Godolphin knew 
that it would become his on the death of his father, as surely as if he 
were the heir by entail. The late Mr. Godolphin, Sir George's father, 
had lived and died in it. Sir George succeeded, and then he lived in 
it — with his wife and children. But he was not Sir George then : 
therefore, for a few minutes, while speaking of this part of his life, we 
will call him what he was — Mr. Godolphin. A pensive, thoughtful 
woman was Mrs. Godolphin, never too strong in health. She was 
Scotch by birth. Of her children, Thomas and Janet most resembled 
her ; Bessy was like no one but herself : George and Cecilia inherited 
the beauty of their father. There was considerable difference in the 
ages of the children, for they had numbered thirteen. Thomas was the 
eldest, Cecilia the youngest ; Janet, Bessy, and George were between 
them ; and the rest, who had also been between them, had died, most 
of them in infancy. But, a moment yet, to give a word to the descrip- 
tion of Ashlydyat, before speaking of the death of Mrs. Godolphin, 

Passing out of Prior's Ash towards the west, a turning to the left of 
the high-road took you to Ashlydyat. Built of greystone, and lying 
somewhat in a hollow, it wore altogether a gloomy appearance. And 
it was intensely ugly. A low building of two storeys, irregularly built, 
with gables and nooks and ins-and-outs of corners, and a square turret 
in the middle, which was good for nothing but the birds to build on. 
It wore a time-honoured look, though, with all its ugliness, and the 
moss grew, green and picturesque, on its walls. Perhaps on the prin- 
ciple, or, let us say, by the subtle instinct of nature, that a mother 
loves a deformed child with a deeper affection than she feels for her 
other children, who are fair and sound of limb, did the Godolphins feel 
pride in their inheritance because it was ugly. But the grounds around 
it were beautiful, and the landscape, so much of it as could be seen 



LADY GODOLPHIN'S FOLLY. 



II 



from that unelevated spot, was most grand to look upon. A full view 
might be obtained from the turret, though it was somewhat of a mount 
to get to it. Dark groves, and bright undulating lawns, shady spots 
where the water rippled, pleasant to bask in on a summer's day, sunny 
parterres of gay flowers scenting the air ; charming, indeed, were the 
environs of Ashlydyat. All, except one spot : and that had charms also 
for some minds — sombre ones. 

In one part of the grounds there grew a great quantity of ash-trees — ■ 
and it was supposed, though not known, that these trees may origi- 
nally have suggested the name, Ashlydyat : as they most certainly 
had that of Prior's Ash, given to the village by the monks. A few 
people wrote it in accordance with its pronunciation, Ash-//V-yat, but 
the old way of spelling it was retained by the family. As the village 
had swollen into a town, the ash-trees, growing there, were cleared 
away as necessity required ; but the town was surrounded with them 
still. 

Opposite to the ash-trees on the estate of Ashlydyat there extended 
a waste plain, totally out of keeping with the high cultivation around. 
It looked like a piece of rude common. Bushes of furze, broom, and 
other stunted shrubs grew upon it, none of them rising above the 
height of a two-year-old child. The description given by Charlotte 
Pain to George Godolphin was not an inapt one — that the place, with 
these stunted bushes on it, looked in the moonhght not unlike a grave- 
yard. At the extremity, opposite to the ash-trees, there arose a high 
archway, a bridge built of grey stone. It appeared to have formed 
part of an ancient fortification, but there was no trace of water having 
run beneath it. Beyond the archway was a low round building, look- 
ing like an isolated windmill without sails. It was built of grey stone 
also, and was called the belfry : though there was as little sign of bells 
ever having been in it, as there was of water beneath the bridge. The 
archway had been kept from decay ; the belfry had not, but was open 
in places to the heavens. 

Strange to say, the appellation of this waste piece of land, with its 
wild bushes, was the " Dark Plain." Why ? The plain was not dark : 
it was not shaded : it stood out, broad and open, in the full glare of 
sunlight. That certain dark tales had been handed down with the 
appellation, is true : and these may have given rise to the name. 
Immediately before the archway, for some considerable space, the 
ground was entirely bare. Not a blade of grass, not a shrub grew on 
it. Or, as the story went, would grow. It was on this spot that the 
appearance, the Shadow, as mentioned by Charlotte Pain, would be 
sometimes seen. Whence the Shadow came, whether it was ghostly 
or earthly, whether those learned in science and philosophy could 
account for it by Nature's laws, whether it was cast by any gaseous 
vapour arising in the moonbeams, I am unable to say. If you ask me 
to explain it, I cannot. If you ask, why then do I write about it, I can 
only answer, because I have seen it. I have seen it with my own 
unprejudiced eyes ; I have sat and watched it, in its strange stillness ; 
I have looked about and around it, low down, high up, for some sub- 
stance, ever so infinitesimal, that might cast its shade and enable me 
to account for it: and I have looked in vain. Had the moon b^en 



12 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



behind the archway, instead of behind me, that might have furnished 
a loophole of explanation : a very poor and inefficient loophole ; a 
curious one also : for how can an archway in the substance be a bier 
and two mourners in its shadow? but, still, better than none. 

No ; there was nothing whatever, so far as human eyes — and I can 
tell you that keen ones and sceptical ones have looked at it — to cast 
the shade, or to account for it. There, as you sat and watched, 
stretched out the plain in the moonlight, with its low, tomb-like 
bushes, its clear space of bare land, the archway rising behind it. But, 
on the spot of bare land, before the archway, would rise the Shadow ; 
not looking as if it were a shadow cast on the ground, but a palpable 
fact : as if a bier, with its two bending mourners, actually stood there 
in the substance. I say that I cannot explain it, or attempt to explain 
it ; but I do say that there it was to be seen. Not often : sometimes 
not for years together. It was called the Shadow of Ashlydyat : and 
superstition told that its appearance foreshadowed the approach of 
calamity, whether of death or other evil, to the Godolphins. The 
greater the evil that was coming upon them, the plainer and more 
distinct would be the appearance of the Shadow — the longer the space 
of time that it would be observed. Rumour went, that once, on the 
approach of some terrible misfortune, it had been seen for months and 
months before, whenever the moon was sufficiently bright. The 
Godolphins did not care to have the subject mentioned to them : in 
their scepticism, they (some of them, at least) treated it with ridicule, 
or else with silence. But, like disbelievers of a different sort, the 
scepticism was more in profession than in heart. The Godolphins, in 
their inmost soul, would cower at the appearance of that shadowed 
bier ; as those others have been known to cower, in their anguish, at 
the approach of the shadow of death. 

This was not all the superstition attaching to Ashlydyat : but you 
will probably deem this quite enough for the present. And we have to 
return to Mrs. Godolphin. 

Five years before the present time, when pretty Cecilia was in her 
fifteenth year, and most needed the guidance of a mother, Mrs. Godol- 
phin died. Her illness had been of a lingering nature ; little hope in 
it, from the first. It was towards the latter period of her illness that 
what had been regarded by four-fifths of Prior's Ash as an absurd 
child's tale, a superstition unworthy the notice of the present-day men 
and women, grew to be talked of in whispers, as something strange." 
For three months antecedent to the death of Mrs. Godolphin, the 
Shadow of Ashlydyat was to be seen every light night, and all Prior's 
Ash flocked up to look at it. That they went, is of no consequence : 
they had their walk and their gaze for their pains : but that Mrs. 
Godolphin should have been told of it, was. She v.aj in the grounds 
alone one balmy moonlight night, later than she ought to have been, 
and she discerned people walking in them, making for the ash-trees. 

"What can those people be doing here?" she exclaimed to one of 
her servants, who was returning to Ashlydyat from executing an errand 
in the town. 

" It is to sec the Shadow, ma'am," whispered the girl, in answer, with 
more direct truth than prudence. 



LADY GODOLPHIN'S FOLLY. 



.t3 



Mrs. Godolphin paused. "The Shadow T'^ she uttered. ^'Is the 
Shadow to be seen?" 

"It has been there ever since last moon, ma'am. It never was so 
plain, they say." 

Mrs. Godolphin waited her opportunity, and, when the intruders had 
dispersed, proceeded to the ash-trees. It is as well to observe that 
these ash-trees, and also the Dark Plain, though very near to the house, 
were not in the more private portion of the grounds. 

Mrs. Godolphin proceeded to the ash-trees. An hour afterwards, 
her absence from the house was discovered, and they went out to 
search. It was her husband who found her. She pointed to the 
shadow, and spoke. 

" You will believe that my death is coming on quickly now, George." 
But Mr. Godolphin turned it off with an attempt at joke, and told her 
she was old enough to know better. 

Mrs. Godolphin died. Two years after, Mr. Godolphin came into 
contact with a wealthy young widow ; young, as compared with himself : 
Mrs. Campbell. He met her in Scotland, at the residence of his first 
wife's friends. She was Enghsh born, but her husband had been 
Scotch. Mr. Godolphin married her, and brought her to Ashlydyat. 
The step did not give pleasure to his children. When sons and 
daughters are of the age that the Godolphin s were, a new wife, brought 
home to rule, rarely does give pleasure to the first family. Things 
did not go on very comfortably : there w^ere faults on each side ; on 
that of Mrs. Godolphin, and on that of her step-daughters. After a 
while, a change was made. Thomas Godolphin and his sisters went 
to reside in the house attached to the bank, a handsome modern 
residence hitherto occupied by Mr. Crosse. " You had better come 
here," that gentleman had said to them : he w^as no stranger to the 
unpleasantness at Ashlydyat. " I will take up my abode in the coun- 
try," he continued. " I would prefer to do so. I am getting to feel 
older than I did twenty years ago, and country air may renovate me." 

The arrangement was carried out. Thomas Godolphin and his 
three sisters entered upon their residence in Prior's Ash, Janet acting 
as mistress of the house, and as chaperon to her sisters. She was then 
past thirty : a sad, thoughtful Avoman, w4io lived much in the inward 
Hfe. 

Just about the time of this change, certain doings of local and public 
importance were enacted in the neighbourhood, in which Mr. Godolphin 
took a prominent share. There ensued a proposal to knight him. He 
started from it with aversion. His family started also : they and he 
alike despised these mushroom honours. Not so Mrs. Godolphin. 
From the moment that the first word of the suggestion was breathed to 
her, she determined that it should be carried out ; for the appellation, 
my lady, was as incense in her ears. In vain Mr. Godolphin strove to 
argue with her : her influence was in the ascendant, and he lay under 
the spell. At length he yielded ; and, though hot war raged in his 
heart, he bent his haughty knee at the court of St. James's, and rose 
up Sir George. 

" After a storm comes a calm." A proverb pleasant to remember 
m some of the sharp storms of life. Mrs. Godolphin had carried her 



U THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



point in being too many for her step-daughters ; she liad triumphed 
over opposition and become my lady ; and now she settled down in 
calmness at Ashlydyat. But she grew dissatisfied. She was a woman 
who had no resources within herself, who lived only in excitement, and 
Ashlydyat's quietness overwhelmed her with ennui. She did not join in 
the love of the Godolphins for Ashlydyat. Mr. Godolphin, ere he had 
brought her home to it, a bride, had spoken so warmly of the place, 
in his attachment to it, that she had believed she was about to step 
into some modern paradise : instead of which, she found, as she 
expressed it, a cranky old house, full of nothing but passages." 
The dislike she formed for it in that early moment never was 
overcome. 

She would beguile her husband to her own pretty place in Berwick- 
shire; and, just at first, he was willing to be beguiled. But after he 
became Sir George (not that the title had anything to do with it) public 
local business grew upon him, and he found it inconvenient to quit 
Ashlydyat. He explained this to Lady Godolphin : and said their 
sojourn in Scotland must be confined to an autumn visit. So she 
perforce dragged out her days at Ashlydyat, idle and listless. 

We warn our children that idleness is the root of all evil ; that it will 
infallibly lead into mischief those who indulge in it. It so led Lady 
Godolphin. One day, as she was looking from her drawing-room 
windows, wishing all sorts of things. That she lived in her pleasant 
home in Berwickshire; that she could live amidst the gaieties of 
London ; that Ashlydyat was not such a horrid old place ; that it was 
more modern and less ugly ; that its reception-rooms were lofty, and 
garnished with gilding and glitter, instead of being low, gloomy, and 
grim ; and that it was situated on an eminence, instead of on a flat, so 
that a better view of the lovely scenery around might be obtained. 
On that gentle rise, opposite, for instance — what would be more 
enchanting than to enjoy a constant view from thence? If Ashlydyat 
could be transported there, as they carry out wooden houses to set up 
abroad ; or, if only that one room, she then stood in, could, with its 
windows 

Lady Godolphin's thoughts arrested themselves here. An idea had 
flashed upon her. Why should she not build a pretty summer-house on 
that hill; a pavilion? The Countess of Cavemore, in this very county, 
had done such a thing : had built a pavilion on a hill within view of 
the windows of Cavemore House, and had called it Lady Cavemore's 
Folly." Only the week before, she. Lady Godolphin, in driving past it, 
had thought what a pretty place it looked ; what a charming prospect 
must be obtained from it. Why should she not do the same ? 

The idea grew into shape and form. It would not leave her again. 
She had plenty of money of her own, and she would work out her 
" Folly " to the very top of its bent. 

To the top of its bent, indeed ! . None can tell what a thing will 
grow into when it is first begun. Lady Godolphin made known her 
project to Sir George, who, though he saw no particular need for the 
work, did not object to it. If Lady Godolphin chose to spend money 
in that way, she might do so. So it was put in hand. Architects, 
builders, decorators were called together ; and the Folly was planned 



LADY GODOLPHIN'S FOLLY. 



out and begun. Lady Godolphin had done with ennui now ; she found 
employment for her days, in watching the progress of the pavihon. 

It is said that the consummation of our schemes generally brings 
with it a share of disappointment. It did so in this instance to Lady 
Godolphin. The Folly turned out to be a really pretty place ; the vie>vs 
from its windows magnificent ; and Lady Godolphin was as enchanted 
as a child with a new toy. The disappointment arose from the fact 
that she could not make the Folly her home. After spending a morning 
in it, or an evening, she must leave it to return to that grey Ashlydyat 
—the only eyesore to be seen, when gazing from the Folly's windows. 
If a day turned out wet, she could not walk to the Folly ; if she was 
expecting visitors she must stay at home to receive them; if Sir 
George felt ill — and his health was then beginning to suffer — she could 
not leave him for her darhng Folly. It was darling because it was 
new : in six months' time. Lady Godolphin would have grown tired of 
it ; have rarely entered it : but in her present mood, it was all-in-all 
to her. 

Slowly she formed the resolution to enlarge the Folly— slowly for her, 
for she deliberated upon it for two whole days. She would add a 
reception-room or two," ^'a bedroom or two," " a kitchen," so that she 
might be enabled, when she chose to do so, to take up her abode in it 
for a week. And these additions were begun. 

But they did not end ; did not end as she had intended. As the Folly 
grew, so grew the ideas of Lady Godolphin : there must be a suite of 
reception-rooms, there must be several bedrooms, there must be domestic 
offices in proportion. Sir George told her that she would spend a for- 
tune upon it ; my lady answered that, at any rate, she should have 
something to show for the outlay. 

At length it was completed : and Lady Godolphin's Folly — for it 
retained its appellation — stood out to the view of Prior's Ash, which 
it overlooked ; to the view of Ashlydyat ; to the view of the country 
generally, as a fair, moderate-sized, attractive residence, built in the 
villa style, its white walls dazzling the eye when the sun shone upon 
them. 

We will reside there, and let Ashlydyat," said Lady Godolphin to 
her husband. 

Reside at the Folly ! Leave Ashlydyat ! " he repeated, in conster- 
nation. "It could not be." 

" it will be," she added, with a half Self-willed, half-caressing laugh. 
" Why could it not be ? " ^ 

Sir George fell into a reverie. He admired the modern conveniences 
of the Folly, greatly admired the lovely scenery, that, look from which 
room of it he would, charmed his eye. But for one thing, he had been 
content to do as she wished, and go to live there. That one thing — 
what Was it ? Hear the low-breathed, reluctant words he is beginning 
to say to Lady Godolphin. 

" There is an old tradition in our family-— a superstition I suppose 
ou will call it— that if the Godolphins leave Ashlydyat, their ruin is at 
and." 

Lady Godolphin stared at him in amazement. Nothing had surprised 
her on her arrival at Ashlydyat, like the stories of marvel which she had 



i6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



been obliged to hear. Sir George had cast ridicule on them, if alluded 
to in his presence ; therefore, when the above words dropped from him, 
she could only wonder. You might search a town through and not find 
one less prone to superstition than was Lady Godolphin : in all that 
belonged to it, she was a very heathen. Sir George hastened to explain 
away his words. 

^' The tradition is nothing, and I regard it as nothing. That such a 
one has been handed down is certain, and it may have given rise to the 
reluctance, which the early Godolphins entertained, to quit Ashlydyat. 
But that is not our reason : in remaining in it, we only obey a father's 
behest. You are aware that Ashlydyat is not entailed. It is bequeathed 
by will from father to son ; and to the bequest in each will, so far as I 
have cognizance of the past wills, there has always been appended a 
clause — a request — I should best say an injunction — never to quit 
Ashlydyat. * When once you shall have come into possession of Ash- 
lydyat, guard it as your stronghold : resign it neither to your heir nor 
to a stranger: remain in it until death shall take you.' It was inserted 
in my father's will, by which Ashlydyat became mine : it is inserted 
in mine, which devises the estate to Thomas." 

" If ever I heard so absurd a story! " uttered Lady Godolphin in her 
pretty childish manner. " Do I understand you to say that, if you left 
Ashlydyat to take up your abode elsewhere, it would be no longer yours ? " 

" Not that, not that," returned Sir George. Ashlydyat is mine until 
my death, and no power can take it from me. But a reluctance to leave 
Ashlydyat has always clung to the Godolphins : in fact, we have looked 
upon it as a step impossible to be taken." 

^' What a state of thraldom to live in ! " 
Pardon me. We love Ashlydyat. To remain in it is pleasant ; to 
leave it would be pain. I speak of the Godolphins in general ; of those 
who have preceded me." 

I understand now," said Lady Godolphin resentfully. " You hold a 
superstition that if you were to leave Ashlydyat for the P^olly, some 
dreadful doom would overtake you. Sir George, I thought we lived in 
the nineteenth century." 

A passing flush rose to the face of Sir George Godolphin. To be 
suspected of leaning to these superstitions chafed his mind unbearably ; 
he had almost rather be accused of dishonour : not to his own heart 
would he admit that they might have weight with him. " Ashlydyat is 
our homestead," he said, and when a man has a homestead, he likes 
to live and die in it." 

" You cannot think Ashlydyat so desirable a residence as the Folly. 
We j/itisf remove to the Folly, Sir George ; I have set my heart upon it. 
Let Thomas and his sisters come back to Ashlydyat." 

^' They would not come." 

" Not come ! They were inwardly rebellious enough at having to 
leave it." 

^' I am sure that Thomas would not take up his residence here, as the 
master of Ashlydyat, during my lifetime. Another thing : we should 
not be justified in keeping up two expensive establishments outside the 
town, leaving the house at the bank to lie idle. People might lose 
confidence in us, if they saw us launching forth into extravagance." 



THE DARK PLAIN IN THE MOONLIGHT. 



17 



Oh, indeed ! What did they think of the expense launched upon 
the Folly ? " mockingly smiled my lady. 

" They know it is your money which has built that : not mine." 

" If Thomas and the rest came to Ashlydyat you might let the house 
attached to the bank." 

" It would take a great deal more money to keep up Ashlydyat than 
it does the house at the bank. The pubhc might lose confidence in us, 
I say. Besides, no one but a partner could be allowed to live at the 
bank." 

You seem to find an answer to all niy propositions," said Lady 
Godolphin, in her softest and sweetest, and least true tone ; " but I 
warn you. Sir George, that I shall win you over to my way of thinking 
before the paper shall be dry on the Folly's walls. If Thomas cannot, 
or will not, live at Ashlydyat, you must let it." 

In every tittle did Lady Godolphin carry out her words. Almost 
before the Folly's embellishments were matured to receive them, Sir 
George was won over to live at it : and Ashlydyat was advertised to 
be let. Thomas Godolphin would not have become its master in his 
father's lifetime had Sir George filled its rooms with gold as a bribe. 
His mother had contrived to imbue him with some of the Ashlydyat 
superstition — to which s/ie had lived a slave — and Thomas, though he 
did not bow down to it, would not brave it. If ruin was to come — as 
some rehgiously believed — when a reigning Godolphin voluntarily 
abandoned Ashlydyat, Thomas, at least, would not help it on by taking 
part in the step. So Ashlydyat, to the intense astonishment of Prior's 
A.sh, was put up in the market for hire. 

It was taken by a Mr. Verrall; a gentleman from London. Prior's 
Ash knew nothing of him, except that he was fond of field sports, and 
appeared to be a man of money : but, the fact of his estabhshing him- 
self at Ashlydyat, stamped him, in their estimation, as one worthy to 
be courted. His wife was a pretty, fascinating woman; her sister, 
Miss Pain, was beautiful ; their entertainments were good, their style 
was dashing, and they became the fashion in the neighbourhood. 

But, from the very first day that the step was mooted of Sir George 
Godolphin's taking up his residence at the Folly, until that of his 
removal thither, the Shadow had hovered over the Dark Plain at 
Ashlydyat. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE DARK PLAIN IN THE MOONLIGHT. 

The beams of the setting sun streamed into the dining-room at Lady 
Godolphin's Folly. A room of fine proportions ; not dull and heavy, 
as it is much the custom for dining-rooms to be, but hght and graceful 
as could be wished. 

Sir George Godolphin, with his fine old beauty, sat at one end of 
the table ; Lady Godolphin, good-looking also in her peculiar style, 
was opposite to him. She wore a white dress, its make remarkably 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 2 



i8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



young, and her hair fell in ringlets, young also. On her right hand 
sat Thomas Godolphin, courteous and calm, as he ever was ; on her 
left hand was Bessy, whom you have already seen. On the right of 
Sir George sat Maria Hastings, singularly attractive in her quiet love- 
liness, in her white spotted muslin dress with its white ribbons. On 
his left sat his eldest daughter, Janet. Quiet in manner, plain in 
features, as was Thomas, her eyes were yet wonderful to behold. Not 
altogether for their beauty, but for the power they appeared to con- 
tain of seeing all things. Large, reflective, strangely-deep eyes, grey, 
with a circlet of darker grey round them. When they were cast upon 
you, it was not at you they looked, but at what was within you — at 
your mind, your thoughts ; at least, such was the impression they 
conveyed. She and Bessy were dressed alike, in grey watered silk. 
Cecil sat between Janet and Thomas, a charming girl, with blue 
ribbons in her hair. George sat between his sister Bessy and Maria 
Hastings. Thomas was attired much as he had been in the morning : 
George had exchanged his hunting clothes for dinner dress. 

Lady Godolphin was speaking of her visit to Scotland. Sir George's 
illness had caused it to be put off, or they would have gone in August : 
it was proposed to proceed thither now. " I have written finally to 
say that we shall be there on Tuesday," she observed. 

" Will papa be able to make the journey in one day ? " asked 
Bessy. 

" He says he is quite strong enough to do so now," replied Lady 
Godolphin. " But I could not think of his running any risk, so we 
shall stay a night upon the road. Janet, will you believe that I had a 
battle with Mr. Hastings to-day?" 

Janet turned her strange eyes on Lady Godolphin. Had you, 
madam 1 " 

I consider Mr. Hastings the most unreasonable, changeable man 
I ever met with," complained Lady Godolphin. " But clergymen are 
apt to be so. So obstinate, if they take up a thing! When Maria 
was invited to accompany us in August, Mr. Hastings made not a 
single demur neither he nor Mrs. Hastings : they bought her — oh, 
all sorts of new things for the visit. New dresses and bonnets ; and — 
a new cloak, was it not, Maria? " 

Maria smiled. Yes, Lady Godolphin." 
People who have never been in Scotland acquire the notion that 
in temperature it may be matched with the North Pole, so a warm 
cloak was provided for Maria for an August visit ! I called at the 
Rectory to-day with Maria, after the hounds had thrown off, to tell 
them that we should depart next week, and Mr. Hastings wanted to 
withdraw his consent to her going. " Too late in the season," he 
urged, or some such plea. I told him she should not be frozen ; we 
should be back before the cold weather set in." 

Maria lifted her sweet face, an earnest look upon it. " It was not 
the cold papa thought of. Lady Godolphin : he knows I am too hardy 
to fear that. But, as winter approaches, there is so much more to do, 
both at home and abroad. Mamma has to be out a great deal : and 
this will be a heavy winter with the poor, after all the sickness." 

" The sickness has passed," exclaimed Lady Godolphin, in a tone 



THE DARK PLAIN IN THE MOONLIGHT. 



so sharp, so eager, as to give rise to a suspicion that she might fear, or 
had feared, the sickness for herself. 

" Nearly so," assented Miss Godolphin, There have been no fresh 
cases since — — " 

" Janet, if you talk of ^ fresh cases ' at my table, I shall retire from 
it," interrupted Lady Godolphin in agitation. Is fever a pleasant or 
fitting topic of conversation, pray ? " 

Janet Godolphin bowed her head. " I did not forget your fears, 
madam, I supposed, however, that, now that the sickness is sub- 
siding, your objection to hearing it spoken of might have subsided 
also." 

"And how did the controversy with Mr. Hastings end?" interposed 
Bessy, to turn the topic. " Is Maria to go?" 

" Of course she is to go," said Lady Godolphin, with a quiet little 
laugh of power, as she recovered her good-humour. "When I wish 
a thing, I generally carry my point. I would not stir from his room 
until he gave his consent, and he had his sermon on the table, and was 
no doubt wishing me at the antipodes. He thought Maria had already 
paid me a visit long enough for Sir George to have grown tired of her, 
he said. I told him that it was not his business : and that whether 
Sir George or any one else was tired of her, I should take her to 
Scotland. So he yielded." 

Maria Hastings glanced timidly at Sir George. He saw the look. 
"Not tired of you yet, are we, Miss Hastings?" he said, with, Maria 
fancied, more gallantry than warmth. But fancy, with Maria, some- 
times went a great way. 

" It would have been a disappointment to Maria," pursued Lady 
Godolphin. " Would it not, my dear ? " 

" Yes," she answered, her face flushing. 

" And so very dull for Charlotte Pain. I expressly told her when I 
invited her that Maria Hastings would be of the party." 

" Charlotte Pain ! " echoed Bessy Godolphin, in her quick way ; " is 
she going with you? What in the world is that for? " 

" I invited her, I say," said Lady Godolphin, with a hard look on her 
bloom-tinted face : a look that it always wore when her wishes were 
questioned, her actions reflected on. None brooked interference less 
than Lady Godolphin. 

Sir George bent his head slightly towards his wife. " My dear, I 
considered that Charlotte Pain invited herself. She fished pretty 
strongly for the invitation, and you fell into the snare." 

" Snare ! It is an honour and a pleasure that she should come with 
us. What do you mean. Sir George? " 

" An honour, if you like to call it so ; I am sure it will be a pleasure," 
rephed Sir George. "A most attractive young woman is Charlotte 
Pain : though she did angle for the invitation. George, take care how 
you play your cards." 

"What cards, sir?" 

" Look at that graceless George ! at his conscious vanity ! " exclaimed 
Sir George to the table generally. "He knows who it is that makes 
the attraction here to Charlotte Pain* Wear her if you can win her, 
my boy." 



20 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"Would Charlotte Pain be one worthy to be won by George Godol- 
phin?" quietly spoke Janet. 

" Rumour says she has thirty thousand charms," nodded Sir George. 

" I never would marry for money, if I were George," cried Cecil 
indignantly. "And, papa, I do not see so much beauty in Charlotte 
Pain. I do not like her style." 

" Cecil, did you ever know one pretty girl like the ^ style ' of another? " 
asked George. 

" Nonsense ! But you can't call Charlotte Pain much of a girl, 
George. She is as old as you, I know. She's six and twenty, if she's 
a day." 

" Possibly," carelessly replied George Godolphin. 

" Did she ride well to-day, George.^" inquired his father. 

" She always rides well, sir," replied George. 

" I wish I had invited her to dinner ! " said Lady Godolphin. 

" I wish you had," assented Sir George. 

Nothing more was said upon the subject ; the conversation fell into 
other channels. But, when the ladies had withdrawn, and Sir George 
was alone with his sons, he renewed it. 

" Mind, George, I was not in jest when speaking of Charlotte Pain. 
It is getting time that you married." 

" Need a man think of marriage on this side thirty, sir ? " 

" Some men need not think of it on this side forty or on this side 
fifty, unless they choose to do so : your brother Thomas is one," returned 
Sir George. " But they are those who know how to sow their wild 
oats without it." 

" I shall sow mine in good time," said George, with a gay, half- 
conscious smile. " Thomas never had any to sow." 

" I wish you would settle the time and keep it, then," was the marked 
rejoinder. " It might be better for you." 

" Settle the time for my marriage, do you mean, sir ? " 

" You know what I mean. But I suppose you do intend to marry 
some time, George?" 

" I dare say I shall. It is a thing that comes to most of us as a 
matter of course ; as measles or vaccination," spoke irreverent George. 
" You mentioned Charlotte Pain, sir : I presume you have no urgent 
wish that my choice should fall upon her ? " 
^ " If I had, would you comply with it?" 

George raised his blue eyes to his father. " I, have never thought of 
Charlotte Pain as a wife." 

" She is a fine girl, a wonderfully fine girl ; and if, as is rumoured, 
she has a fortune, you might go further and fare worse," remarked 
Sir George. "If you don't like Charlotte Pain, find out some one 
else that you would like. Only, take care that there's money with 
her." 

" Money is desirable in itself. But it does not invariably bring 
happiness, sir." 

" I never heard that it brought unhappiness. Master George. I 
cannot have you both marry portionless women. Thomas has chosen 
one who has nothing : it will not do for you to follow his example. 
The world is before you : choose wisely." 



THE DARK PLAIN IN THE MOONLIGHT. ±t 

*' If we choose portionless women, we are not portionless ourselves." 

"We have a credit to keep up before the public, George. It stands 
high ; it deserves to stand high ; I hope it always will do so. But I 
consider it necessary that one of you should marry a fortune ; I should 
have been glad that both had done so. Take the hint, George ; and 
never expect my consent to your making an undesirable match, for it 
would not be given." 

" But, if my inclination fixed itself upon one who has no money, what 
then, sir ? " asked bold George carelessly. 

Sir George pushed from before him a dish of filberts, so hastily as to 
scatter them on the table. It proved to his sons, who knew him well, 
that the question had annoyed him. 

" Your inclinations are as yet free, George : I say the world is before 
you, and you may choose wisely. If you do not : if, after this warning, 
you suffer your choice to rest where it is undesirable that it should rest, 
you will do it in deliberate defiance of me. In that case I shall disin- 
herit you : partially, if not wholly." 

Something appeared to be on the tip of George's tongue, but he 
checked it, and there ensued a pause. 

Thomas is to be allowed to follow his choice," he presently said. 

" I had not warned Thomas with regard to a choice ; therefore he 
has been guilty of no disobedience. It is his having chosen as he has, 
that reminds me to caution you. Be careful, my boy." 

" Well, sir, I have no intention of marrying yet, and I suppose you 
will not disinherit me for keeping single," concluded George good- 
humouredly. He rose to leave the room as he spoke, throwing a merry 
glance towards Thomas as he did so, who had taken no part whatever 
in the conversation. 

The twilight of the evening had passed, but the moon shone bright 
and clear, rendering the night nearly as light as day. Janet Godolphin 
stood on the lawn with Miss Hastings, when George stepped out and 
joined them. 

" Moon-gazing, Janet I 

" Yes," she answered. " I am going on to the ash-trees." 
George paused before he again spoke. Why are you going 
thither?" 

" Because," whispered Janet, glancing uneasily around, " they say the 
Shadow is there again." 

George himself had heard that it was : had heard it, as you know, 
from Charlotte Pain. But he chose to make mockery of his sister's 
words. 

" Some say the moon's made of green cheese," quoth he. " Who told 
you that nonsense ? " 

" It has been told to me," mysteriously returned Janet. " Margery 
saw it last night, for one." 

Margery sees double, sometimes. Do not go, Janet." 

Janet's only answer was to put the hood of her cloak over her head, 
and walk away. Bessy Godolphin ran up at this juncture, j 

" Is Janet going to the ash-trees? She'll turn into a gh0st herself 
some time, beheving all the rubbish Margery chooses to dream. I 
shall go and tell her so.'^ 



52 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Bessy followed in the wake of her sister. George turned to Miss 
Hastings. 

Have you a cloak also, Maria? Draw it round you, then, and let 
us go after them." 

He caught her to him with a fond gesture, and they hastened on, 
down from the eminence where rose the Folly, to the lower ground 
nearer Ashlydyat. The Dark Plain lay to the right, and as they struck 
into a narrow, overhung walk, its gloom contrasted unpleasantly with 
the late brightness. Maria Hastings drew nearer to her companion 
with an involuntary shiver. 

Why did you come this dark way, George ? " 

^' It is the most direct way. In the dark or in the light you are safe 
with me. Did you notice Sir George's joke about Charlotte Pain ? " 

The question caused her heart to beat wildly. Was it a joke ? " she 
breathed. 

" Of course it was a joke. But he has been giving me a lecture upon 
— upon " 

Upon what ? " she inquired, helping out his hesitation. 

" Upon the expediency of sowing my wild oats and settling down into 
a respectable man," laughed George. " I promised him it should be 
done some time. I cannot afford it just yet, Maria," he added, his tone 
changing to earnestness. "But I did not tell him that." 

Meanwhile, Janet Godolphin had gained the ash-trees. She quietly 
glided before them beneath their shade to reach the bench. It was 
placed back, quite amidst them, in what might almost be called a 
recess formed by the trees. Janet paused ere turning in, her sight 
thrown over the Dark Plain. 

Heavens and earth ! how you startled me. Is it you. Miss 
Godolphin ? " 

The exclamation came from Charlotte Pain, who was seated there. 
Miss Godolphin was startled also : and her tone, as she spoke, betrayed 
considerable vexation. 

" Vou here, Miss Pain ! A solitary spot, is it not, for a young lady 
to be sitting in alone at night ? " 

" I was watching for that strange appearance which you, in this 
neighbourhood, call the Shadow," she explained. " I saw it last 
evening." 

" Did you ? " freezingly repHed Janet Godolphin, who had an uncon- 
querable aversion to the supernatural sign being seen or spoken of by 
strangers. 

" Well, pray, and where's the Shadow?" interrupted Bessy Godolphin, 
coming up. " / see nothing, and my eyes are as good as yours, Janet : 
better, I hope, than Margery's." 

" I do not see it to-night," said Charlotte Pain, " Here arc more 
footsteps ! Who else is coming ? " 

Did you ever know the Shadow come 'when it was watched for?" 
Cried Janet to Bessy, in a half-sad, half-resentful tone, as her brother 
and Maria Hastings approached. " Watch for it, and it docs not 
come. It never yet struck upon the sight of any one, but it did so 
Unexpectedly." 

"As it did upon me last night," said Charlotte Pain. "It was a 



THE DARK PLAIN IN THE MOONLIGHT. 23 



strange-looking shadow: but, as to its being supernatural, the very 
supposition is ridiculous. I beg your pardon, if I offend your prejudices, 
Miss Godolphin." 

" Child ! why did you come ? " cried Janet Godolphin to Maria* 

" I had no idea you did not wish me to come." 

" Wish ! It is not that. But you are little more than a child, and 
might be spared these sights." 

There appeared to be no particular sight to spare any one. They 
stood in a group, gazing eagerly. The Dark Plain was stretched out 
before them, the bare patch of clear ground, the archway behind; 
all bright in the moonlight. No shadow or shade was to be seen. 
Charlotte Pain moved to the side of George Godolphin. 

"You told me I was fanciful this morning, when I said the Dark 
Plain put me in mind of a graveyard," she said to him in a half- whisper. 
^' See it now ! Those low bushes scattered about look precisely like 
grave-mounds." 

" But we know them to be bushes," returned George. 

" That is not the argument. I say they look like it. If you brought 
a stranger here first by moonlight, and asked him what the Plain was, 
he would say a graveyard." 

" Thus it has ever been ! ^ murmured Janet Godolphin to herself. 
" At the first coming of the Shadow, it will he here capriciously ; visible 
one night, invisible the next : betokening that the evil has not yet 
arrived, that it is only hovering! You are sure you saw it. Miss 
Pain?" 

" I am quite sure that I saw a shadow, bearing a strange and dis- 
tinct form, there, in front of the archway. But I am equally sure it is 
to be accounted for by natural causes. But that my eyes tell me there 
is no building, or sign of building above the Dark Plain, I should say 
it was cast from thence. Some fairies, possibly, may be holding up a 
sheet there," she carelessly added, "playing at magic lantern in the 
moonlight." 

" Standing in the air," sarcastically returned Miss Godolphin. 
"Archimedes offered to move the world with his lever, if the world 
would only find him a place, apart from itself, to stand on." 

" Are you convinced, Janet ? " asked George. 

" Of what ? " ^ 

He pointed over the Plain. " That there is nothing uncanny to be 
seen to-night. I'll send Margery here when I return." 

" I am convinced of one thing— that it is getting uncommonly 
damp," said practical Bessy. " I never stood under these ash-trees in 
an evening yet, let the atmosphere be ever so cold and clear, but a 
dampness might be felt. I wonder if it is the nature of ash-trees ta 
exhale it ? Maria, the Rector would not thank us for bringing you 
here." 

" Is Miss Hastings so susceptible to cold?" asked Charlotte Pain. 

" Not more so than other people are," was Maria's answer. 

" It is her child-hke, delicate appearance, I suppose, that makes us 
fancy it," said Bessy Godolphin. " Come, let us depart. If Lady 
Godolphin could see us here, she would go crazy : she says, you know, 
that damp brings fever." 



24 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



They made a simultaneous movement. Their road lay to the right ; 
Charlotte Pain's to the left. " I envy you four," she said, after wishing 
them good night. ^' You are a formidable body, numerous enough 
to do battle with any assailants you may meet in your way, fairies, or 
shadows, or fever, or what not. I must encounter them alone." 

" Scarcely," replied George Godolphin, as he drew her arm within 
his, and turned with her in the direction of Ashlydyat. 

Arrived at Lady Godolphin's Folly, the Miss Godolphins passed in- 
doors; Maria Hastings lingered a moment behind them. She leaned 
against a white pillar of the terrace, looking forth on the lovely night. 
Not altogether was that peaceful scene in accordance with her heart, 
for, in that, warred passionate jealousy. Who was Charlotte Pain, she 
asked herself, that she should come between them with her beauty ; 
with her 

Some one was hastening towards her ; crossing the green lawn, 
springing up the steps of the terrace ; and the jealous feeling died 
away into love. 

Were you waiting for me ? " whispered George Godolphin. We 
met Verrall, so I resigned mademoiselle to his charge. Maria, how 
your heart is beating ! " 

I was startled when you ran up so quickly ; I did not think it 
could be you," was the evasive answer. " Let me go, please." 

^' My darling, don't be angry with me : I could not well help myself. 
You know with whom I would rather have been." 

He spoke in the softest whisper; he gazed tenderly into her face, so 
fair and gentle in the moonlight ; he clasped her to him with an im- 
passioned gesture. And Maria, as she yielded to his tenderness in her 
pure love, and felt his stolen kisses on her lips, forgot the jealous trouble 
that was being wrought by Charlotte Pain. 



CHAPTER IV. 

ALL SOULS' RECTORY. 

At the eastern end of Prior's Ash was situated the Church and Rectory 
of All Souls — a valuable living, the Reverend Isaac Hastings its in- 
cumbent. The house, enclosed from the high-road by a lofty hedge, 
was built, like the church, of greystone. It was a commodious resi- 
dence, but its rooms, excepting one, were small. This one had been 
added to the house of late years : a long, though somewhat narrow 
room, its three windows looking on to the flowered lawn. A very plea- 
sant room to sit in on a summer's day ; when the grass was green, and 
the flowers, with their brightness and perfume, gladdened the senses, 
and the birds were singing, and the bees and butterflies sporting. 

Less pleasant to-day. For the skies wore a grey hue; the wind 
sighed round the house with an ominous sound, telhng of the coming 
winter; and the mossy lawn and the paths were dreary with the 
yellow leaves, decaying as they lay. Mrs. Hastings, a ladylike woman 
of middle height and fair complexion, stood at one of the«?n windows, 



ALL SOULS' RECTORY. 



Watching the bending of the trees as the wind shook them ; watching 
the faUing leaves. She was remarkably susceptible to surrounding 
influences ; seasons and weather held much power over her : but that 
she was a clergyman's wife, and, as such, obhged to take a very prac- 
tical part in the duties of hfe, she might have subsided into a valetudi- 
narian. 

A stronger gust sent the leaves rusthng up the path, and Mrs. 
Hastings slightly shivered. 

" How I dislike this time of year," she exclaimed. " I wish there 
were no autumn. I dislike to see the dead leaves." 

" I like the autumn : although it heralds in the winter." 

The reply came from Mr. Hastings, who was pacing the carpet, 
thinking over his next day's sermon : for it was Saturday morning. 
Nature had not intended Mr. Hastings for a parson, and his sermons 
were the bane of his life. An excellent man ; a most efficient pastor of 
a parish ; a gentleman ; a scholar, abounding in good practical sense ; 
but not a preacher. Sometimes he wrote his sermons, sometimes he 
tried the extempore plan ; but, let him do as he would, there was always 
a conviction of failure, as to his sermons winning their way to his 
hearers' hearts. He was under middle height, with keen aquiline 
features, his dark hair already sprinkled with grey. 

I am glad the wind has changed," remarked the Rector. We 
shall say good-bye to the fever. While that warm weather lasted, I 
always had my fears of its breaking out again. It was only coquetting 
with us. I wonder " 

Mr. Hastings stopped, as if lapsing into thought. Mrs. Hastings 
inquired what his " wonder " might be. 

" I was thinking of Sir George Godolphin," he continued. ^' One 
thought leads to another and another, until we should find them a 
strange train, if we traced them back to their origin. Beginning with 
dead leaves, and ending with — metaphysics." 

What are you talking of, Isaac ?" his wife asked in surprise. 

A half-smile crossed the thin dehcate lips of Mr. Hastings. ^'You 
spoke of the dead leaves : that led to the thought of the fever ; the 
fever to the bad drainage ; the bad drainage to the declaration of Sir 
George Godolphin that, if he lived until next year, it should be reme- 
died, even though he had to meet the expense himself. Then the train 
went on to speculate upon whether Sir George would live ; and next 
upon whether this change of weather may not cause my lady to relin- 
quish her journey ; and lastly, to Maria. Cold Scotland, if we are to 
have a season of bleak winds, cannot be beneficial to Sir George." 

" Lady Godolphin has set her mind upon going. She is not likely to 
relinquish it." 

Mark you, Caroline," said Mr. Hastings, halting in his promenade, 
and standing opposite his wife ; it is her dread of the fever that is 
sending her to Scotland. But for that, she would not go, now that it is 
so late in the year. And for Maria's sake I wish she would not. I do 
not now wish Maria to go to Scotland." 
"Why?" asked Mrs. Hastings. 

Mr. Hastings knitted his brow. " It is an objection more eacily 
felt than explained." 



26 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" When the invitation was given in the summer, you were pleased 
that she should accept it." 

" Yes ; I acknowledge it : and, had they gone then, I should have 
felt no repugnance to the visit. But I do feel a repugnance to it now, 
so far as Maria is concerned; an unaccountable repugnance. If you 
ask me to explain it, or to tell you what my reason is, I can only answer 
that I am unable to do so. It is this want of reason, good or bad, 
which has prevented my entirely withdrawing the consent I gave. I 
essayed to do so, when Lady Godolphin was here on Thursday ; but 
she pressed me closely, and, having no sound or plausible argument to 
bring forward against it, my opposition broke down." 

Mrs. Hastings wondered. Never was there a man less given to 
whims and fancies than the Reverend Isaac Hastings. His actions 
and thoughts were based on the sound principle of plain matter-of-fact 
sense : he was practical in all things ; there was not a grain of ideality 
in his composition. 

At that moment a visitor's knock was heard. Mrs. Hastings glanced 
across the hall, and saw her second daughter enter. She wore her 
grey cashmere cloak, soft and fine in texture, delicate in hue ; a pretty 
morning dress, and a straw bonnet trimmed with white. A healthy 
colour shone on her delicate face, and her eyes were sparkling with 
inward happiness. Very attractive, very ladylike, was Maria Hastings. 

" I was obliged to come this morning, mamma," she said, when 
greetings had passed. " Some of my things are still here which I wish 
to take, and I must collect them and send them to the Folly. We start 
early on Monday morning ; everything must be packed to-day." 

" One would suppose you were off for a year, Maria," exclaimed Mr. 
Hastings, "to hear you talk of ^collecting your things.' How many 
trunk-loads have you already at the Folly ? " 

" Only two, papa," she replied, laughing, and wondering why Mr. 
Hastings should speak so sternly. They are chiefly trifles that I have 
come for ; books, and other things : not clothes." 

" Your papa thought it likely that Lady Godolphin would not now 
go, as the fine weather seems to be leaving us," said Mrs. Hastings. 

Oh yes, she will," replied Maria. Her mind is fully made up. 
Did you not know that the orders had already been sent into Berwick- 
shire ? And some of the servants went on this morning ? " 

Great ladies change their minds sometimes," remarked Mr. Hast- 
ings in a cynical tone. 

Maria shook her head. She had untied her bonnet-strings, and was 
unfastening her mantle. " Sir George, who has risen to breakfast since 
Thursday, asked Lady Godolphin this morning whether it would not 
be late for Scotland, and she resented the remark. What do you think 
she said, mamma? That if there was nothing else to take her to Scot- 
land, this absurd rumour, of the Shadow's having come again, would 
drive her thither." 

"What's that, Maria?" demanded the clergyman in a sharp, dis- 
pleased accent. 

" A rumour has arisen, papa, that the Shadow is appearing at Ash* 
lydyat. It was seen on Wednesday night. On Thursday night, some 
of us went to the ash-trees — — 



ALL SOULS^ RECTORY. 



27 



Vou went ? " interrupted the Rector. 

"Yes, papa," she answered, her voice growing timid, for he spoke in 
a tone of great displeasure. " I, and Miss Godolphin, and Bessy. We 
were not alone : George Godolphin was with us." 

"And what did you see?" eagerly interposed Mrs. Hastings, who 
possessed more of the organ of marvel in her composition than her 
husband. 

" Mamma, we saw nothing. Only the Dark Plain lying quietly 
under the moonlight. There appeared to be nothing to see ; nothing 
unusual." 

" But that I hear you say this with my own ears, I should not have 
believed you capable of giving utterance to folly so intense," sternly 
exclaimed Mr. Hastings to his daughter. "Are you the child of 
Christian parents? have you received an enlightened education?" 

Maria's eyelids fell under the reproof, and the soft colour in her 
cheeks deepened. 

" That a daughter of mine should confess to running after a ' sha- 
dow ' ! " he continued, really with more asperity than the case seemed 
to need. But the Rector of All Souls' was one who would have 
deemed it little less heresy to doubt his Bible, than to countenance a 
tale of superstition. He repudiated such with the greatest contempt : 
he never, even though proof positive had been brought before his eyes, 
could accord to it an iota of credence. "An absurd tale of a 
* shadow,' worthy only to be told to those who, in their blind credulity, 
formerly burnt poor creatures as witches ; worthy only to amuse the 
ears of ignorant urchins, whom we put into our fields to frighten away 
the crows ! And 7/iy daughter has lent herself to it ! Can this be 
the result of your training, madam?" — turning angrily to his Avife. 
" Or of mine ? " 

" I did not run after it from my own curiosity ; I went because 
the rest went," answered poor Maria in her confusion, all too con- 
scious that the stolen moonlight walk with Mr. George Godolphin 
had been a far more powerful motive to the expedition than the 
"Shadow." "Miss Pain saw it on Wednesday night; Margery saw 
it " 

"Will you cease?" broke forth the Rector. "'Saw it!' If they 
said they saw it they must have been labouring under a delusion ; or 
else were telling a deliberate untruth. And you do not know better 
than to repeat such ignorance! What would Sir George think of 
you?" 

" I should not mention it in his presence, papa. Or in Lady 
Godolphin's." 

" Neither shall you in mine. It is not possible " — Mr. Hastings 
stood before her and fixed his eyes sternly upon hers — " that you can 
beheve in it?" 

" I think not, papa," she answered in her strict truth. To truth, 
at any rate, she nad been trained, whether by father or by mother; 
and she would not violate it even to avoid displeasure. " I think that 
my feeling upon the point is curiosity ; not belief." 

"Then that curiosity imphes behef," sternly replied the Rector. '' If 
a man came to me and said, * There's an elephant out there, in the 



28 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



garden/ and I went forth to see, would not that prove my behef in 
the assertion? " 

Maria was no logician; or she had answered, No, you might go to 
prove the error of the assertion." " Indeed, papa, if I know anything 
of myself, I am not a behever in it," she repeated, her cheeks growing 
hotter and hotter. " If I were once to see the Shadow, why then " 

" Be silent ! " he cried, not allowing her to continue. " I shall think 
next I am talking to that silly dreamer, Janet Godolphin. Is it she 
who has imbued you with this tone of mind?" 

Maria shook her head. There was an undercurrent of conscious- 
ness, lying deep in her heart, that if a tone " upon the point had 
been insensibly acquired by her, it was caught from one far more 
precious to her heart, far more essential to her very existence, than 
was Janet Godolphin. That last Thursday night, in running with 
George Godolphin after this tale of the Shadow, his arm cast lovingly 
round her, she had acquired the impression, from a few words he let 
fall, that he must put faith in it. She was content that his creed 
should be hers in all things : had she wished to differ from him, it 
would have been beyond her power to do so. Mr. Hastings appeared 
to wait for an answer. 

"Janet Godolphin does not intrude her superstitious fancies upon 
the world, papa. Were she to seek to convert me to them, I should 
not listen to her." 

" Dismiss the subject altogether from your thoughts, Maria," com- 
manded the Rector. "If men and women would perform efficiently 
their allotted part in life, there is enough of hard substance to occupy 
their minds and their hours, without losing either the one or the other 
in ^ shadows.' Take you note of that." 

"Yes, papa," she dutifully answered, scarcely knowing whether she 
had deserved the lecture or not, but glad that it was at an end. 
" Mamma, where is Grace?" 

" In the study. You can go to her. There's David ! " exclaimed 
Mrs. Hastings, as Maria left the room. 

A short, thick-set man had appeared in the garden, giving rise to 
the concluding remark of Mrs. Hastings. If you have not forgotten 
the first chapter, you may remember that Bessy Godolphin spoke of a 
man who had expressed his pleasure at seeing her father out again. 
She called him " Old Jekyl." Old Jekyl lived in a cottage on the out- 
skirts of Prior's Ash. He had been in his days a working gardener, 
but rheumatism and age had put him beyond work now. There was 
a good bit of garden-ground to his cottage, and it was well cultivated. 
Vegetables and fruit grew in it ; and a small board was fastened in 
front of the laburnum-tree at the gate, with the intimation " Cut flowers 
sold here." There were also bee-hives. Old Jekyl (Prior's Ash never 
dignified him by any other title) had no wife : she was dead : but his 
two sons lived with him, and they followed the occupation that had 
been his. I could not tell you how many gardens in Prior's Ash 
and its environs those two men kept in order. Many a family, not 
going to the expense of keeping a regular gardener, some, perhaps, not 
able to go to it, entrusted the care of their garden to the Jekyls, paying 
them a stipulated sum yearly. The plan answered. The gardens were 



ALL SOULS' RECTORY. 



29 



kept in order, and the Jekyls earned a good living ; both masters and 
men were contented. 

They had been named Jonathan and David : and were as opposite as 
men and brothers could well be, both in nature and appearance. Each 
was worthy in his way. Jonathan stood six feet three if he stood an 
inch, and was sufficiently slender for a lamp-post : rumour went that 
he had occasionally been taken for one. An easy-going, obliging, 
talkative, mild-tempered man, was Jonathan, his opinion agreeing with 
every one's. Mrs. Hastings was wont to declare that if she were to 
say to him, " You know, Jonathan, the sun never shone," his answer 
would be, ''Well, ma'am, I don't know as ever it did, over bright 
like." David had the build of a Dutchman, and was taciturn upon 
most subjects. In manner he was somewhat surly, and would hold 
his own opinion, especially if it touched upon his occupation, against 
the world. 

; r Amongst others who employed them in this way, was the Rector of 
AU Souls'. They were in the habit of coming and going to that or 
any other garden, as they pleased, at whatever day or tim.e suited 
their convenience ; sometimes one brother, sometimes the other, some- 
times one of the two boys they employed, as they might arrange be- 
tween themselves. Any garden entrusted to their care they were sure 
to keep in order ; therefore their time and manner of doing it was not 
interfered with. Mrs. Hastings suddenly saw David in the garden. 
" I will get him to sweep those ugly dead leaves from the paths," she 
exclaimed, throwing up the window. David ! " 

David heard the call, turned and looked. Finding he was wanted, 
he advanced in a leisurely, independent sort of manner, giving his 
attention to the beds as he passed them, and stopping to pluck off any 
dead flower that offended his eye. He gave a nod as he reached Mrs. 
Hastings, his features not relaxing in the least. The nod was a mark 
of respect, and meant as such ; the only demonstration of respect 
commonly shown by David. His face was not ugly, though too flat 
and broad ; his complexion was fair, and his eyes were blue. 

"David, see how the leaves have fallen; how they lie upon the 
ground ! " 

David gave a half-glance round, by way of answer, but he did not 
speak. He knew the leaves were there without looking. 

" You must clear them away," continued Mrs. Hastings. 

" No," responded David to this. " 'Twon't be of no use." 

" But, David, you know how very much I dislike to see these 
withered leaves," rejoined Mrs. Hastings in a voice more of pleading 
than of command. Command answered little with David. 

" Can't help seeing 'em," persisted David. " Leaves will wither; and 
will fall : it's their natur' to do it. If every one of them lying there 
now was raked up and swept away, there'd be as many down again 
to-morrow morning. I can't neglect my beds to fad with the leaves — 
and bring no good to pass, after all." 

"David, I do not think any one ever was so self-willed as you!" 
said Mrs. Hastings, laughing in spite of her vexation. 

" I know my business," was David's answer. " If I gave in at my 
different places to all the missises' whims, how should I get my work 



30 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



done? The masters would be blowing me up, thinking it was 
idleness. Look at Jonathan! he lets himself be swayed any way; 
and a nice time he gets of it, among 'em. His day's work's never 
done." 

You would not suffer the leaves to lie there until the end of the 
season! " exclaimed Mrs. Hastings. " They would be up to our ankles 
as we walked." 

" May be they would," composedly returned David. " I have 
cleared 'em off about six times this fall, and I shall clear 'em again, 
but not as long as this wind lasts." 

Is it going to last, David?" inquired the Rector, appearing at his 
wife's side, and laughing inwardly at her diplomatic failure. 

David nodded his usual salutation as he answered. He would some- 
times relax so far as to say " Sir " to Mr. Hastings, an honour paid 
exclusively to his pastoral capacity. No, it won't last, sir. We shall 
have the warm weather back again." 

You think so ! " exclaimed the Rector in an accent of disappoint- 
ment. Experience had taught him that David, in regard to the 
weather, was an oracle. 

"I am sure so," answered David. "The b'rometer's going fast on 
to heat, too." 

" Is it?" said Mr. Hastings. "You have often told me you put no 
faith in the barometer." 

"No more I don't : unless other signs answer to it," said David. 
" The very best b'rometer going, is old father's rheumatiz. There was 
a sharp frost last night, sir." 

" I know it," repHed Mr. Hastings. "A few nights of that and the 
fever will be driven away." 

" We shan't get a few nights of it," said David. " And the fever has 
broken out again." 

" What ! " exclaimed Mr. Hastings. " The fever broken out again?" 

" Yes," said David. 

The news fell upon the clergyman's heart as a knell. He had fully 
believed the danger to have passed away, though not yet the sickness. 
"Are you sure it has broken out again, David?" he asked, after a 
pause. 

" I ain't no surer than I was told, sir," returned phlegmatic David. 
" I met Cox just now, and he said, as he passed, that fever had shown 
itself in a fresh place." 

" Do you know where?" Inquired Mr. Hastings. 

" He said, I b'Heve, but I didn't catch it. If I stopped to listen to 
the talk of fevers, and such-like, Avhere would my work be ? " 

Taking his hat, one of the very clerical shape, with a broad brim, the 
Rector left his house. He was scarcely without the gates when he saw 
Mr. Snow, who was the most popular doctor in Prior's Ash, coming 
along quickly in his gig. Mr. Hastings threw out his hand, and the 
groom pulled up. 

" Is it true ? — this fresh rumour of the fever ? " 

" Too true, I fear," replied Mr. Snow. " I am on my way thither 
now; just summoned." 
"Who is attacked? 



ALL SOULS' RECTORY, 



31 



" Sarah Anne Grame." 

The name appeared to startle the Rector. " Sarah Anne Grame ! " 
he repeated. " She will never battle through it ! " The doctor raised 
his eyebrows, as if he thought it doubtful himself, and signed to his 
groom to hasten on. 

" Tell Lady Sarah I will call upon her in the course of the day," 
called out Mr. Hastings, as the gig sped on its way. " I must ask 
Maria if she has heard news of this," he continued, in soliloquy, as he 
turned within the Rectory gate. 

Maria Hastings had found her way to the study. To dignify a room 
by the appellation of " study " in a clergyman's house, would at once 
imply that it must be the private sanctum of its master, consecrated to 
his sermons and his other clerical studies. Not so, however, in the 
Rectory of All Souls. The study there was chiefly consecrated to 
litter, and the master had less to do with it, personally, than with 
almost any other room in the house. There, the children, boys and 
girls, played, or learned lessons, or practised ; there, Mrs. Hastings 
would sit to sew when she had any work in hand too plebeian for the 
eyes of polite visitors. 

Grace, the eldest of the family, was twenty years of age, one year 
older than Maria. She bore a great resemblance to her father ; and, 
like him, was more practical than imaginative. She was very useful in 
the house, and took much care off Mrs. Hastings's hands. It happened 
that all the children, five of them besides Maria, were this morning at 
home. It was holiday that day with the boys. Isaac was next to 
Maria, but nearly three years younger ; one had died between them ; 
f Reginald was next ; Harry last ; and then came a little girl, Rose. 
They ought to have been preparing their lessons ; were supposed to be 
doing so by Mr. and Mrs. Hastings : in point of fact, they were gather- 
ing round Grace, who was seated on a low stool solving some amusing 
puzzles from a new book. They started up when Maria entered, and 
went dancing round her. 

Maria danced too ; she kissed them all ; she sang aloud in her joy- 
ousness of heart. What was it that made that heart so glad, her 
life as a very Eden? The ever-constant presence there of George 
Godolphin. 

" Have you come home to stay, Maria? " 

" I have come home to she answered, with a laugh. " We start 
for Scotland on Monday, and I want to hunt up oceans of things." 

" It is fine to be you, Maria," exclaimed Grace, with a sensation very 
like envy. " You have all the pleasure, and I have to stop at home and 
do all the work. It is not fair." 

" Gracie dear, it will be your turn next. I did not ask Lady Godol- 
phin to invite me, instead of you. I never thought of her inviting me, 
being the younger of the two." 

" But she did invite you," grumbled Grace. 

" I say, Maria, you are not to go to Scotland," struck in Isaac. 

"Who says so? " cried Maria, her heart standing still, as she halted 
in one corner of the rooni with at least half a dozen arms round her. 

" Mamma said yesterday she thought you were not : that papa would 
ftot have it*" 



32 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Is that all?" and Maria's pulses coursed on again. I am to go: 
I have just been with papa and mamma. They know that I have come 
to get my things for the journey." 

" Maria, who goes? " 

^' Sir George and my lady, and I and Charlotte Pain." 

" Maria, I want to know why Charlotte Pain goes?" cried Grace. 

Maria laughed. " You are like Bessy Godolphin, Grace. She asked 
the same question, and my lady answered, ' Because she chose to invite 
her.' I can only repeat to you the same reason." 

" Does George Godolphin go? " 

" No," rephed Maria. 
Oh, doesn't he, though ! " exclaimed Reginald. " Tell that to the 
marines, mademoiselle." 

" He does not go with us," said Maria. " Regy, you know you will 
get into hot water if you use those sea phrases." 

Sea phrases ! that is just like a girl," retorted Reginald. What 
will you lay me that George Godolphin is not in Scotland within a 
week after you are all there ? " 

" I will not lay anything," said Maria, who in her inmost heart hoped 
and believed that George would be there. 

^' Catch him stopping away if Charlotte Pain goes?" went on Regi- 
nald. " Yesterday I was at the pastry cook's, having a tuck-out with 
that shilling old Crosse gave me, and Mr. George and Miss Charlotte 
came in. I heard a little." 

"What did you hear?" breathed Maria. She could not help the 
question : any more than she could help the wild beating of her heart 
at the boy's words. 

" I did not catch it all," said Reginald. " It was about Scotland, 
though, and what they should do when they were there. Mrs. Verrall's 
carriage came up then, and he put her into it. An out-and-out flirt is 
George Godolphin ! " 

Grace Hastings threw her keen dark eyes upon Maria. " Do not let 
him flirt with yoii^^ she said in a marked tone. You like him ; I do 
not. I never thought George Godolphin worth his salt." 

" That's just Grace ! " exclaimed Isaac. " Taking her hkes and dis- 
likes! and for no cause, or reason, but her own crotchets and prejudices. 
He is the nicest fellow going, is George Godolphin. Charlotte Pain's 
is a new face and a beautiful one : let him admire it." 

"He admires rather too many," nodded Grace. 

" As long as he does not admire yours, you have no right to grumble," 
rejoined Isaac provokingly : and Grace flung a bundle of work at him, 
for the laugh turned against her. 

" Rose, you naughty child, you have my crayons there ! " exclaimed 
Maria, happening to cast her eyes upon the table, where Rose was 
seated too quietly to be at anything but mischief. 

" Only one or two of your sketching pencils, Maria," said Miss Rose. 
" I shan't hurt them. I am making a villa with two turrets and some 
cows." 

" I say, Maria, is Charlotte Pain going to take that thoroughbred 
hunter of hers? " interposed Reginald. 

" Of course," scoffed Isaac ; " saddled and bridled. She'll have him 



THOMAS GODOLPHIN'S LOVE. 



33 



with her in the railway carriage ; put him in the corner seat opposite 
Sir George. Regy's brains may do for sea — if he ever gets there ; but 
they are not sharp enough for land." 

" They are as sharp as yours, at any rate," flashed Reginald. " Why 
should she not take him ? " 

" Be quiet, you boys ! " said Grace. 

She was interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Hastings. He did 
not open the door at the most opportune moment. Maria, Isaac, and 
Harry were executing a dance that probably had no name in the 
dancing calendar ; Reginald was standing on his head ; Rose had just 
upset the contents of the table, by inadvertently drawing off its old 
cloth cover, and Grace was scolding her in a loud tone. 

"What do you call this?" demanded Mr. Hastings, when he had 
leisurely surveyed the scene. "Studying?" 

They subsided into quietness and their places; Reginald with his 
face red and his hair wild, Maria with a pretty blush, Isaac with a 
smothered laugh. Mr. Hastings addressed his second daughter. 

" Have you heard anything about this fresh outbreak of fever? " 

" No, papa," was Maria's reply. " Has it broken out again? 

" I hear that it has attacked Sarah Anne Grame." 

" Oh, papa ! " exclaimed Grace, clasping her hands in sorrowful con- 
sternation. " Will she ever live through it? " 

Just the same doubt, you see, that had occurred to the Rector. 



CHAPTER V. 

THOMAS GODOLPHIN'S LOVE. 

For nearly a mile beyond All Souls' Rectory, as you went out of 
Prior's Ash, there were scattered houses and cottages. In one of them 
lived Lady Sarah Grame. We receive our ideas from association ; and, 
in speaking of the residence of Lady Sarah Grame, or Lady Sarah 
Anyone, imagination might conjure up some fine old mansion with all 
its appurtenances, grounds, servants, carriages and grandeur: or, at 
the very least, a " villa with two turrets and some cows," as Rose 
Hastings expressed it. 

Far more like a humble cottage than a mansion was the abode of 
Lady Sarah Grame. It was a small, pretty, detached white house, 
containing eight or nine rooms in all ; and, they, not very large ones. 
A plot of ground before it was crowded with flowers : far too crowded 
for good taste, as David Jekyl would point out to Lady Sarah. But 
Lady Sarah loved flowers, and would not part with one of them. 

The daughter of one soldier, and the wife of another. Lady Sarah 
had scrambled through life amidst bustle, perplexity, and poverty. 
Sometimes quartered in barracks, sometimes following the army 
abroad ; out of one place into another ; never settled anywhere for long 
together. It was an existence not to be envied ; although it is the lot 
of many. She was Mrs. Grame then, and her husband, the captain, 
was not a very good husband to her. He was rather too fond of 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 3 



34 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



amusing himself, and threw all care upon her shoulders. She passed 
her days nursing her sickly children, and endeavouring to make one 
sovereign go as far as two. One morning, to her unspeakable embar- 
rassment, she found herself converted from plain, private Mrs. Grame 
into the Lady Sarah. Her father boasted a peer in a very remote 
relative, and came unexpectedly into, the title. . 

» Had he come into money with it, it would have been more welcome ; 
but, of that, there was only a small supply. It was a very poor Scotch 
peerage, with limited estates; and, they, encumbered. Lady Sarah 
wished she could drop the honour which had fallen to her share, unless 
she could live a little more in accordance with it. She had much 
sorrow. She had lost one child after another, until she had only two 
left, Sarah Anne and Ethel. Then she lost her husband ; and, next, 
her father. Chance drove her to Prior's Ash, which was near her 
husband's native place ; and she settled there, upon her limited income. 
All she possessed was her pension as a captain's widow, and the interest 
of the sum her father had been enabled to leave her ; the whole not 
exceeding five hundred a year. She took the white cottage, then just 
built, and dignified it with the name of " Grame House :" and the 
mansions in the neighbourhood of Prior's Ash were content not to laugh, 
but to pay respect to her as an earl's daughter. 

i Lady Sarah was a partial woman. She had only these two daugh- 
ters, and her love for them was as different as light is from darkness. 
Sarah Anne she loved with an inordinate affection, almost amounting 
to passion ; for Ethel, she did not care. What could be the reason 
of this? What is the reason why parents (many of them maybe found) 
will love some of their children, and dislike others ? They cannot tell 
you, any more than Lady Sarah could have told. Ask them, and they 
will be unable to give you an answer. It does not he in the children : 
it often happens that those obtaining the least love will be the most 
worthy of it. Such was the case here. Sarah Anne Grame was a 
pale, sickly, fretful girl; full of whims, full of complaints, giving trouble 
to every one about her. Ethel, with her sweet countenance and her 
merry heart, made the sunshine of the home. She bore with her 
sister's exacting moods, bore with her mother's want of love. S/ie 
loved them both, and waited on them, and carolled forth her snatches 
of song as she moved about the house, and was as happy as the day 
was long. The servants — they kept only two — would tell you that 
Miss Grame was cross and selfish ; but that Miss Ethel was worth her 
weight in gold. The gold was soon to be appropriated ; transplanted 
to a home where it would be appreciated and cherished : for Ethel was 
the affianced wife of Thomas Godolphin. 

On the morning already mentioned, when you heard it said that 
fever had broken out again, Sarah Anne Grame awoke, ill. In her 
fretful, impatient way, she called to Ethel, who slept in an adjoining 
room. Ethel was asleep: but she was accustomed to be roused at 
unseasonable hours by Sarah Anne, and she threw on hef dressing- 
gown and hastened to her. 

" I want some tea," began SataH Anne. " I aiii as ill and thirsty as 
I can be." 

Sarah Anne was really ot a §ickl^ eonStiti^tibil, and to lieaf lifer com* 



THOMAS GODOLPHIN'S LOVE. 



35 



plain of being ill and thirsty was nothing unusual. Ethel, in her 
loving nature, her sweet patience, received the information with as 
much concern as though she had never heard it before. She bent over 
Sarah Anne, inquiring tenderly where she felt pain. 

" I tell you that I am ill and thirsty, and that's enough," peevishly 
answered Sarah Anne. " Go and get me some tea." 

" As soon as I possibly can," said Ethel soothingly. " There is no 
fire at present. The maids are not up. I do not think it can be later 
than six, by the look of the morning." 

" Very well ! " sobbed Sarah Anne — sobs of temper, not of pain. 
" You can't call the maids, I suppose ! and you can't put yourself the 
least out of the way to alleviate my suffering ! You want to go to bed 
again and sleep till eight o'clock. When I am dead, you'll wish you 
had been more like a sister to me. You possess rude health yourself, 
and you can feel no compassion for any one who does not." 

An assertion unjust and untrue : as was many another, made by 
Sarah Anne Grame. Ethel did not possess " rude health," though she 
was not, hke her sister, always ailing ; and she felt far more compassion 
than Sarah Anne deserved. 

" I will see what I can do," she gently said. " You shall soon have 
some tea." 

Passing into her own room, Ethel hastily dressed herself. When 
Sarah Anne was in one of her exacting moods, there could be no more 
sleep or rest for Ethel. " I wonder," she thought to herself, " whether 
I could not light a fire, without calhng the servants ? They had so 
hard a day's work yesterday, for mamma kept them both cleaning 
from morning till night. Yes : if I can only find some wood, I'll try to 
hght one." 

She went down to the kitchen, hunted up what was required, laid the 
fire, and lighted it. It did not burn up well. She thought the wood 
must be damp, and found the bellows. She was on her knees, blowing 
away at the wood, and sending the blaze up into the coal, when some 
one came into the kitchen, 

" Miss Ethel ! " 

It was one of the servants : Elizabeth. She had heard movement in 
the house, and had risen. Ethel explained that her sister felt ill, and 
tea was wanted. 

" Why did you not call us, Miss Ethel ? " 

" You went to rest late, Ehzabeth. See how I have made the fire 
burn ! " 

" It is not ladies' work, miss." 

" I certainly think ladies should put on gloves when they attempt it," 
merrily laughed Ethel. " Look at my black hands." 

The tea ready, Ethel carried a cup of it to her sister, with some 
dry toast that they had made. Sarah Anne drank the tea, but 
turned with a shiver from the toast. She seemed to be shivering 
much. 

" Who was so stupid as to make that ? You might know I should 
not eat it. I am too ill." 

Ethel began to think that she did look unusually ill. Her face was 
flushed, shivering though she was, her lips were dry, her heavy eyes 



36 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



were unnaturally bright. She gently laid her hands, washed now, 
upon her sister's brow. It felt burning, and Sarah Anne screamed. ' 
Do keep your hands away! My head is sphtting with pain." 

Involuntarily Ethel thought of the fever; the danger from which 
they had been reckoning had passed away. It was a low sort of typhus 
which had prevailed; not very extensively, and chiefly amidst the 
poor : the great fear had been, lest it should turn to a more malignant 
type. About half a dozen deaths had taken place altogether. 

" Would you like me to bathe your forehead with water, Sarah 
Anne ? " asked Ethel kindly. " Or to get you some eau-de-Cologne ? " 

I should like you to wait until things are asked for, and not to worry 
me," retorted Sarah Anne. 

Ethel sighed. Not for the temper : Sarah Anne was always fractious 
in illness : but for the suffering she thought she saw, and the half 
doubt, half dread, which had arisen within her. " I think I had 
better call mamma," she deliberated to herself. " Though, if she sees 
nothing unusually the matter with Sarah Anne, she will only be angry 
with me." 

Proceeding to her mother's chamber, Ethel knocked softly. Lady 
Sarah slept still, but the entrance aroused her. 

" Mamma, I do not like to disturb you ; I was unwilling to do so : 
but Sarah Anne is ill." 

" 111 again! And only last week she was in bed three days ! Poor 
dear sufferer! Is it her chest again .^" 

" Mamma, she seems unusually ill. Otherwise I should not have 
disturbed you. I feared — I thought — you will be angry with me if I 
say, perhaps ? " 

" Say what ? Don't stand like a statue, Ethel." 

Ethel dropped her voice. Dear mamma, suppose it should be the 
fever ? " 

For one startling moment. Lady Sarah felt as if a dagger had pierced 
her : the next, she turned upon Ethel. Fever for Sarah Anne ! how 
dared she prophesy it ? A low, common fever, confined to the poor 
of the town, and which had subsided ; or, all but subsided ! Was it 
likely to return again and come up here to attack her darling child ? 
What did Ethel mean by it ? 

Ethel, the tears in her eyes, said she hoped it would prove to be only 
an ordinary headache ; it was her love for Sarah Anne which awoke 
her fears. Lady Sarah proceeded to the sick-room ; and Ethel followed. 
Her ladyship was not in the habit of observing caution, and spoke 
freely of the " fever " before Sarah Anne ; apparently for the purpose of 
casting blame at Ethel. 

Sarah Anne did not imbibe the fear; she ridiculed Ethel as her 
mother had done. For some hours Lady Sarah did not admit it 
either. She would have summoned medical advice at first, but that 
Sarah Anne, in her peevishness, protested she would not have a doctor. 
Later on she grew worse, and Mr. Snow was sent for. You saw him in 
his gig hastening to the house. 

Lady Sarah came forward to receive him ; Ethel, full of anxiety, near 
lier. She was a thin woman, with a shrivelled face and a sharp red 
nose, her grey hair banded plainly under a close white net cap. 



THOMAS GODOLPHIN'S LOVE. 



37 



She grasped Mr. Snow's arm. " You must save my child 1 " 

" Higher aid permitting me," the surgeon answered. " Why do you 
assume it to be fever ? For the last six weeks I have been summoned 
by timid parents to a score of ^ fever ' cases ; and when I have arrived 
in hot haste, they have turned out to be no fever at all." 

" This is the fever," rephed Lady Sarah. "Had I been more willing 
to admit that it was, you would have been sent for hours ago. It was 
Ethel's fault. She suggested at daylight that it might be fever ; and it 
made my darling girl so angry that she forbid my sending for advice. 
But she is worse now. Come and see her." 

Mr. Snow laid his hand upon Ethel's head with a fond gesture, ere 
he turned to Lady Sarah. All Prior's Ash loved Ethel Grame. 

Tossing upon her uneasy bed, her face flushed, her hair floating 
untidily about it, lay Sarah Anne, shivering still. The doctor gave 
one glance at her : it was quite enough to satisfy him that Lady Sarah 
was not mistaken. 

" Is it the fever?" impatiently asked Sarah Anne, unclosing her hot 
eyelids. 

" If it is, we must drive it away again," said the doctor cheerily. 
"Why should the fever have come to vie?^^ she rejoined, her tone 
rebellious. 

" Why was I thrown from my horse last year, and broke my arm ? " 
returned Mr. Snow. " These things come to all of us." 

"To break an arm is nothing — people always recover from that," 
irritably answered Sarah Anne. 

"And you will recover from the fever, if you will be quiet and 
reasonable." 

" I am so hot ! My head is so heavy ! " 

Mr. Snow, who had called for water and a glass, was mixing a 
white powder which he had produced from his pocket. She took it 
without opposition, and then he lessened the weight of bed-clothes, 
and afterwards turned his attention to the chamber. It was close and 
hot ; the sun, which had just burst forth brightly from the grey skies, 
shone full upon it. 

" You have that chimney stuffed up ! " he exclaimed. 

" Sarah Anne will not allow it to be open," said Lady Sarah. " She 
is sensitive to cold, dear child, and feels the slightest draught." 

Mr. Snow walked to the chimney, turned up his coat cuff and wrist- 
band, and pulled down a bag filled with shavings. Soot came with it, 
and covered his hand ; but he did not mind that. He was as little 
given to ceremony as Lady Sarah to caution, and he went leisurely up 
to the wash-hand-stand to remove it. 

" Now, if I catch that bag, or any other bag up there again, obstruct- 
ing the air, I shall attack the bricks next time, and make a good big 
hole that the sky can be seen through. Of that I give you notice, my lady." 

He next pulled down the window at the top, behind the blind ; but 
the room, at its best, did not find favour with him. " It is not airy; it 
is not cool," he said. "Is there not a better ventilated room in the 
house ? If so, she should be moved into it." 

" My room is cool," interposed Ethel eagerly. " The sun never shines 
into it, Mr. Snow." 



38 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



It would appear that Ethel's thus speaking must have reminded Mr. 
Snow that she was present. In the unceremonious manner that he had 
laid hands upon the chimney bag, he now laid them upon her shoulders, 
and marshalled her outside the door. 

" You go downstairs. Miss Ethel. And do not Come within a mile 
of this chamber again, until I give you leave to do so." 

" I will not be moved into Ethel's room ! " interposed Sarah Anne, 
imperiously and fretfully. " It is not furnished with half the comforts 
of mine. And it has only a bit of bedside carpet ! I will not go there, 
Mr. Snow." 

" Now look you here. Miss Sarah Anne ! " said the surgeon firmly. 
" I am responsible for bringing you well out of this illness ; and I shall 
take my own way to do it. If not; if I am to be contradicted at every 
suggestion; Lady Sarah may summon some one else to attend you : 1 
will not undertake it.'* 

" My darling, you shall not be moved to Ethel's room," cried my 
lady coaxingly : "you shall be moved into mine. It is larger than this, 
you know, Mr. Snow, with a thorough draught through it, if you choose 
to put the windows and door open." 

' " Very well," said Mr. Snow. " Let me find her in it when I come 
up again this evening. And if there's a carpet on the floor, take it up. 
Carpets were never intended for bedrooms." 

He passed into one of the sitting-rooms with Lady Sarah when he 
descended. " What do you think of the case ? " she eagerly asked. 

" There will be some difficulty with it," was the candid reply. " Lady 
Sarah, her hair must come off." 

" Her hair come off! " uttered Lady Sarah, aghast. " That it never 
shall ! She has the loveliest hair ! What is Ethel's hair, compared 
with hers ? " 

" You heard the determination I expressed, Lady Sarah," he quietly 
said. 

"But Sarah Anne will never allow it to be done," she returned, 
shifting the ground of remonstrance from her own shoulders. " And 
to do it in opposition to her would be enough to kill her." 

"It will not be done in opposition to her," he answered. " She will 
be unconscious before it is attempted." 

Lady Sarah's heart sank, " You anticipate that she will be danger- 
ously ill ? " 

" In these cases there is always danger, Lady Sarah. But worse cases 
than— as I believe — hers will be, have recovered from it." 

" If I lose her, I shall die myself! " she passionately uttered. "And, 
if she is to have it badly, she will die ! Remember, Mr. Snow, how 
weak she has always been ! " 

E "We sometimes find that weak constitutions battle best with an 
epidemic," he replied. " Many a sound one has it struck down and 
taken off ; many a sickly one has struggled through it, and been the 
stronger for it afterwards." 

" Everything shall be done as you wish," said Lady Sarah, speaking 
meekly in her great fear. 

" Very well. There is one caution I would earnestly impress upon 
you ; that of keeping Ethel from the sick-room.'' 



tHOMAS GODOLPHIN^S LOVE. 



39 



" But there is no one to whom Sarah Anne is so accustomed, as a 
nurse," objected Lady Sarah. 

"Madam !" burst forth the doctor in his heat, "would you subject 
Ethel to the risk of taking the infection, in deference to Sarah Anne's 
selfishness, or to yours? Better lose all your house contains than lose 
Ethel ! She is its greatest treasure." 

" I know how remarkably prejudiced you have always been in Ethel's 
favour ! " resentfully spoke Lady Sarah. ^ i 

" If I disliked her as much as I like her, I should be equally soli- 
citous to guard her from the danger of infection," said Mr. Snow. "If 
you choose to put Ethel out of consideration, you cannot put Thomas 
Godolphin. In justice to him, she must be taken care of." 

Lady Sarah opened her mouth to reply ; but closed it again. Strange 
words had been hovering upon her lips : " If Thomas Godolphin were 
not blind, his choice would have fallen upon Sarah Anne ; not upon 
Ethel." In her heart that was a sore topic of resentment : for she was 
quite alive to the advantages of a union with a Godolphin. Those words 
were suppressed ; to give place to others. 

"Ethel is in the house; and therefore must be Hable to infection, 
whether she visits the room or not. I cannot fence her round with a 
wall, so that not a breath of tainted atmosphere shall touch her. I 
would if I could ; but I cannot." 

" I would send her from the house, Lady Sarah. At any rate, I 
forbid her to go near her sister. I don't want two patients on my 
hands, instead of one," he added in his quaint fashion, as he took 
his departure. 

He was about to get into his gig, when he saw Mr. Godolphin ad- 
vancing with a quick step. "Which of them is it who is seized?" 
inquired the latter, as he came up. 

" Not Ethel, thank goodness ! " responded the surgeon. " It is Sarah 
Anne. I have been recommending my lady to send Ethel from home. 
I should send her, were she a daughter of mine." 

"Is Sarah Anne likely to have it dangerously?" 

" I think so. Is there any necessity for you going to the house just 
now, Mr. Godolphin?" 

Thomas Godolphin smiled. " There is no necessity for my keeping 
away. I do not fear the fever any more than you do." 

He passed into the garden as he spoke, and Mr. Snow drove away* 
Ethel saw him, and came out to him. 

" Oh, Thomas, do not come in ! do not come 1 " 

His only answer was to take her on his arm and enter. He threw 
open the drawing-room window, that as much air might circulate through 
the house as possible, and stood there with her, holding her before him. 

" Ethel ! what am I to do with you ? " 

" To do with me ! What should you do with me, Thomas?" 
" Do you know, my darhng, that I cannot qford to let this danger 
touch you?" 
" I am not afraid," she gently whispered. 

He knew that : she had a brave, unselfish heart. But he was afraid 
for her, for he loved her with a jealous love ; jealous of any evil that 
might come too near her. 



40 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I should like to take you out of the house with me now, Ethel. I 
should like to take you far from this fever-tainted town. Will you 
come?" 

She looked up at him with a smile, the colour rising to her face. 

How could I, Thomas !" 
f Anxious thoughts were passing through the mind of Thomas Go- 
dolphin. We cannot put aside the conve?ia?tces of life ; though there 
are times when they press upon us with an iron weight. He would 
have given almost his own life to take Ethel from that house : but how 
was he to do it? No friend would be likely to receive her . not even 
his own sisters: they would have too much dread of the infection she 
might bring with her. He would fain have carried her off to some 
sea-breezed town, and watch over her and guard her there, until the 
danger should be over. None would have protected her more honour- 
ably than Thomas Godolphin. But — those convenances that the world 
has to bow down to ! how would the step have agreed with them ? 
Another thought, Httle less available for common use, passed through 
his mind. 

"Listen, Ethel!" he whispered. "It would be only to procure a 
license, and half an hour spent at All Souls with Mr. Hastings. It 
could be all done, and you away with me before nightfall." 

She scarcely understood his meaning. Then, as it dawned upon her, 
she bent her head and her blushing face, laughing at the wild im- 
probability. 

" Oh, Thomas ! Thomas ! you are only joking. What would people 
say?" 

^ " Would it make any difference to us what they said?" 

" It could not be, Thomas," she whispered seriously ; "it is as an 
impossible vision. Were all other things meet, how could I run away 
from my sister, on her bed of sickness, to marry you? " 

Ethel was right : and Thomas Godolphin felt that she was so. 
Punctilios must be observed, no matter at what cost. He held her 
fondly to his heart. 

"If aught of ill should arise to you from your remaining here, I shall 
blame myself as long as life shall last. My love ! my love ! " 

Mr. Godolphin could not linger. He must be at the bank, for 
Saturday was their most busy day of all the week ; it was market-day 
at Prior's Ash : though he had stolen a moment to leave it when the 
imperfect news reached him. George was in the private room alone 
when he entered. " Shall you be going to Lady Godolphin's Folly 
this evening, George? " he inquired. 

" The Fates permitting," replied Mr. George, who was buried five 
fathoms deep in business ; though he would have preferred to be five 
fathoms deep in pleasure. "Why?" 

" You can tell my father that I am sorry not to be able to spend an 
hour with him, as I had promised. Lady Godolphin will not thank me 
to be running from Lady Sarah's house to hers just now." 

" Thomas," warmly spoke George, in an impulse of kindly feeling : 
" I do hope it will not extend itself to Ethel ! " 

" I hope not," fervently breathed Thomas Godolphin. 



( 41 



CHAPTER VI. 

CHARLOTTE PAIN. 

A FINE old door of oak, a heavy door, standing deep within a portico, 
into which you might almost have driven a coach-and-six, introduced 
you to Ashlydyat. The hall was dark and small, the only light ad- 
mitted to it being from mullioned windows of stained glass. Innumer- 
able passages branched off from the hall. One peculiarity of Ashlydyat 
was, that you could scarcely enter a single room in it, but you must 
first go down a passage, short or long, to reach it. Had the house been 
designed by any architect with a head upon his shoulders and a little 
common sense with it, he might have made it a handsome mansion 
with large and noble rooms. As it was, the rooms were cramped and 
narrow, cornered and confined ; and space was lost in these worthless 
passages. 

In the least sombre room of the house, one with a large modern 
window (put into it by Sir George Godolphin to please my lady, just 
before that whim came into her head to build the Folly), opening 
upon a gravel walk, were two ladies, on the evening of this same 
Saturday. Were they sisters? They did not look like it. Charlotte 
Pain you have seen. She stood underneath the wax-lights of the 
chandelier, tall, commanding, dark, handsome ; scarlet flowers in her 
hair, a scarlet bouquet in her corsage ; her dress a rich cream-coloured 
silk interwoven with scarlet sprigs. She had in her hand a small black 
dog of the King Charles species, holding him up to the lights, and 
laughing at his anger. He was snarhng fractiously, whether at the 
lights or the position might be best known to his mistress ; whilst at 
her feet barked and yelped an ugly Scotch terrier, probably because 
he was not also held up : for dogs, hke men, covet what they cannot 
obtain. 

In a dress of pink gauze, with pretty pink cheeks, smooth features, 
and hazel eyes, her auburn hair interlaced with pearls, her height 
scarcely reaching to Miss Pain's shoulder, was Mrs. Verrall. She was 
younger than her sister : for sisters they were : a lady who passed 
through hfe with easy indifference, or appeared to do so, and called her 
husband " Verrall." She stood before the fire, a delicate white Indian 
screen in her hand, shading her face from the blaze. The room was 
hot, and the large window had been thrown open. So calm was the 
night, that not a breath of air came in to stir the wax-hghts ; the wind, 
which you heard moaning round the Rectory of All Souls in the morn- 
ing, whirling the leaves and displeasing Mrs. Hastings, had dropped 
at sundown to a dead calm. 

" Charlotte, I think I shall make Verrall take me to town with him ! 
The thought has just come into my mind." 

Charlotte made no answer. Possibly she did not hear the words, 
for the dogs were barking and she was laughing louder than ever. 
Mrs. Verrall stamped her foot petulantly, and her voice rang through 
the room. 



42 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAf. 



Charlotte, then, do you hear me ? Put that horrible httle brute 
down, or I will ring for both to be taken away ! One might as well 
keep a screaming cockatoo ! I say I have a great mind to go up to 
town with Verrall." 

Verrall would not take you," responded Charlotte, putting her King 
Charles on to the back of the terrier. 

Why do you think that ?" 
" He goes up for business only.** 

"It will be so dull for me, all alonel" complained Mrs. Verrall 
" You in Scotland, he in London, and I moping myself to death in this 
gloomy Ashlydyat ! I wish we had never taken it ? " 

Charlotte Pain bent her dark eyes in surprise upon her sister. " Since 
when have you found out that you do not like Ashlydyat?" 

" Oh, I don't know. It is a gloomy place inside, especially if you 
contrast it with Lady Godolphin's Folly. And they are beginning to 
whisper of ghostly things being abroad on the Dark Plain ! " 

" For shame, Kate ! " exclaimed Charlotte Pain. " Ghostly things ! 
Oh, I see — you were laughing." . 

" Is it not enough to make us all laugh— these tales of the Godol- 
phins? But I shall convert it into a pretext for not being left 
alone here when you and Verrall are away. Why do you go, Char- 
lotte ? " Mrs. Verrall added, in a tone which had changed to marked 
significance. " It is waste of time." 

Charlotte Pain would not notice the innuendo. *^ I never was in 
Scotland, and shall like the visit," she said, picking up the King Charles 
again. " I enjoy fine scenery : you do not care for it." 

" Oh," said Mrs. Verrall ; it is scenery that draws you, is it ? Take 
you care, Charlotte." 

" Care of what?'' 

" Shall I tell you ? You must not fly into one of your tempers and 
pull my hair. You are growing too fond of George Godolphin." 

Charlotte Pain gave no trace of" flying into a temper ;" she reriiained 
perfectly cool and calm. " Well ? " was all she said, her lip curhng. 

" If it would bring you any good; if it would end in your becoming 
Mrs. George Godolphin ; I should say well; go into it with your whole 
heart and energy. But it will not so end ; and your time and plans are 
being wasted." 

" Has he told you so much?" ironically asked Charlotte. 

" Nonsense ! There was one in possession of the field before you, 
Charlotte — if my observation goes for anything. S/te will win the 
race; you will not even be in at the distance chair. I speak of Maria 
Hastings." 

" You speak of what you know nothing," carelessly answered Char- 
lotte Pain, a self-satisfied smile upon her Hps. 

" Very well. When it is all over, and you find your time /tas been 
wasted, do not say I never warned you. George Godolphin may be a 
prize worth entering the lists for ; I do not say he is not : but there is 
no chance of your winnir^g him." 

Charlotte Pain tossed the dog upwards and caught him as he de- 
scended, a strange look of triumph on her brow. 

" And — Charlotte," went on Mrs. Verrall in a lower tone, " there is 



CHARLOTTE PAIN. 



45 



a proverb, you know, about two stools. We may fall to the ground if 
we try to sit upon both at once. How would Dolf like this expe- 
dition to Scotland, handsome George making one in it ? ^' 

Charlotte's eyes flashed now. " I care no more for Dolf than I care 
for — not half so much as I care for this poor little brute. Don\bring 
up Dolf to me, Kate ! " 

"As you please. I would not mix myself up with your private 
affairs for the world. Only a looker-on sometimes sees more than 
those engaged in the play." 

Crossing the apartment, Mrs. Verrall traversed the passage that led 
from it, and opened the door of another room. There sat her husband 
at the dessert-table, taking his wine alone, and smoking a cigar. He 
was a slight man, twice the age of his wife, his hair and whiskers 
yellow, and his eyes set deep in his head : rather a good-looking man 
on the whole, but a very silent one. " I want to go to London with 
you," said Mrs. Verrall. 

" You can't," he answered. 

She advanced to the table, and sat down near him. "There's 
Charlotte going one way, and you another " 

" Don't stop Charlotte," he interrupted, with a meaning nod. 

"And I must be left alone in the house; to the ghosts and dreams 
and shadows they are inventing about that Dark Plain. I will go with 
you, Verrall." 

" I should not take you with me to save the ghosts running off with 
you," was Mr. Verrall's answer, as he pressed the ashes from his cigar 
on a pretty shell, set in gold. " I go up mcog, this time." 

"Then I'll fill the house with guests," she petulantly said. 

" Fill it, and welcome, if you like, Kate," he replied. " But, to go to 
London, you must wait for another opportunity," 

"What a hateful thing business is! I wish it had never been in- 
vented ! " 

" A great many more wish the same. And have more cause to wish 
it than you," he drily answered. "Is tea ready ? " 

Mrs. Verrall returned to the room she had left, to order it in. Char- 
lotte Pain was then standing outside the large window, leaning against 
its frame, the King Charles lying quietly in her arms, and her own 
ears on the alert, for she thought she heard advancing footsteps ; and 
they seemed to be stealthy ones. The thought — or, perhaps, the wish 
— that it might be George Godolphin, stealing up to surprise her, 
flashed into her mind. She bent her head, and stroked the dog, in the 
prettiest unconsciousness of the approaching footsteps. 

A hand was laid upon her shoulder. " Charlotte ! " 

She cried out — a sharp, genuine cry of dismay — dropped the King 
Charles, and bounded into the room. The intruder followed her. 

"Why, Dolf !" uttered Mrs. Verrall in much astonishment. "Is it 
you ? " 

" It is not my ghost," replied the gentleman, holding out his hand. 
He was a little man, with fair hair, this Mr. Rodolf Pain, cousin to the 
two ladies. "Did I alarm you, Charlotte ? " 

" Alarm me ! " she angrily rejoined. " You must have sprung from 
the earth.'^ 



44 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I have sprung from the raihvay station. Where is Verrall ? " 
" Why have you come down so unexpectedly ? " exclaimed Mrs. 
VerralL 

To see Verrall. I return to-morrow." 

" Verrall goes up to-morrow night." 
I know he does. And that is why I have come down." 
You might have waited to see him in London," said Charlotte, her 
equanimity not yet restored. 

"It was necessary for me to see him before he reached London. 
Where shall I find him, Mrs. Verrall ? " 

" In the dining-room," Mrs. Verrall replied. "What can you want 
with him so hurriedly ? " 

" Business," laconically replied Rodolf Pain, as he left the room in 
search of Mr. Verrall. 

It was not the only interruption. Ere two minutes had elapsed. 
Lady Godolphin was shown in, causing Mrs. Verrall and her sister 
almost as much surprise as did the last intruder. She had walked 
over from the Folly, attended by a footman, and some agitation peeped 
out through her usual courtly suavity of manner, as she asked whether 
Charlotte Pain could be ready to start for Scotland on the morrow, 
instead of on Monday. 

" To-morrow will be Sunday ! " returned Charlotte. 

" I do not countenance Sunday travelling, if other days can be made 
use of," continued Lady Godolphin. " But there are cases where it is 
not only necessary, but justifiable ; when we are glad to feel the value 
of those Divine words, * The Sabbath was made for man, and not man 
for the Sabbath.' Fever has broken out again, and I shall make use 
of to-morrow to escape from it. We start in the morning." 

" I shall be ready and willing to go," replied Charlotte. 

"It has appeared at Lady Sarah Grame's," added Lady Godolphin . 
" one of the most unlikely homes it might have been expected to visit. 
After this, none of us can feel safe. Were that fever to attack Sir 
George, his life, in his present reduced state, would not be worth an 
hour's purchase." 

The dread of fever had been strong upon Lady Godolphin from the 
first ; but never had it been so keen as now. Some are given to this 
dread in an unwonted degree : whilst an epidemic lasts (of whatever 
nature it may be) they live in a constant state of fear and pain. It 
is death they fear : being sent violently to the unknown life to come. 
I know of only one remedy for this : to be at peace with God : death 
or life are alike then. Lady Godolphin had not found it. 

"Will Mr. Hastings permit his daughter to travel on a Sunday.^" 
exclaimed Mrs. Verrall, the idea suddenly occurring to her, as Lady 
Godolphin was leaving. 

" That is my business," was my lady's frigid answer. It has been 
said that she brooked not interference in the slightest degree. 

It certainly could not be called the business of Mr. Hastings. For 
the travellers were far away from Prior's Ash the next morning before 
he had received an inkling of the departure. 



( 45 ) 



CHAPTER VII. 

BROOMHEAD. 

The contrast between them was great. You could see it mosi; remark- 
ably as they sat together. Both were beautiful, but of a different type 
of beauty. There are some people — and they bear a very large propor- 
tion to the whole — to whom the human countenance is as a sealed 
book. There are others for whom that book stands open to its every 
page. The capacity for reading character — what is it ? where does it 
lie ? Phrenologists call it, not inaptly, comparison. 

There stands a man before you, a stranger ; seen now for the first 
time. As you glance at him you involuntarily shrink within your- 
self, and trench imaginary walls around you, and say : That man is a 
bad man. Your eyes fall upon another — equally a stranger until that 
moment — and your honest heart fiows out to him. You could extend 
to him the hand of confidence there and then, for that man's counte- 
nance is an index to his nature, and you hww that you may trust him 
to the death. In what part of the face does this index seat itself? In 
the eyes ? the mouth ? the features separately ? or in the whole ? 

Certainly in the whole. To judge of temper alone, the eye and 
mouth — provided you take them in repose — are sure indications ; but, 
to judge of what a man is, you must look to the whole. You don't know 
precisely where to look for it — any more than do those know who cannot 
see it at all. You cannot say that it hes in the forehead, the eyebrows, 
the eyes, or the chin. You see it, and that is the most you can tell. 
Beauty and ugliness, in themselves, have nothing to do with it. An 
ugly countenance may, and often does, bear its own innate goodness, as 
certainly as that one of beauty sometimes bears its own repulsion. 
Were there certain unerring signs to judge by, the whole human race 
might become readers of character : but that will never be, so long as 
the world shall last. 

In like manner, as we cannot tell precisely where nature's marks He, 
so are we unable to tell where lies the capacity to read them. Is it 
a faculty ? or an instinct ? This I do know : that it is one of the great 
gifts of God. Where the power exists in an eminent degree, rely upon 
it its possessor is never deceived in his estimation of character. It is 
born with him into the world. As a little child he has his likes and 
dislikes to persons : and sometimes may be whipped for expressing 
them too strongly. As he grows up, the faculty — instinct — call it what 
you will — is ever in exercise; at rest when he sleeps; never at any 
other time. 

Those who do not possess the gift (no disparagement to them : they 
may possess others, equally or more valuable) cavil at it — laugh at it — 
do not beheve in it. Read what people are by their face ? Nonsense ! 
t/iey know better. Others, who admit the fact, have talked of " reducing 
it to a science," whatever that may mean ; of teaching it to the world, 
as we teach the classics to our boys. It may be done, say they. Pos- 



46 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



sibly. We all acknowledge the wonders of this most wonderful age. 
Fishes are made to talk ; fleas to comport themselves as gentlemen ; 
monkeys are discovered to be men — or men monkeys — which is it ? 
a shirt is advertised to be made in four minutes by a new sewing 
machine. We send ourselves in photograph to make morning calls. 
The opposite ends of the world are brought together by electric tele- 
graph. Chloroform has rendered the surgeon's knife something rather 
agreeable than otherwise. We are made quite at home with " spirits," 
and ghosts are reduced to a theory. Not to mention other discoveries 
connected with the air, earth, and water, which would require an 
F.R.S. to descant upon. Wonderful discoveries of a wonderful age ! 
Compare the last fifty years with the previous fifty years ; when people 
made their wills before going to London, and flocked to the fair to see 
the learned pig point out the identical young woman who had had the 
quarrel with her sweetheart the previous Sunday afternoon ! It is not 
my province to dispute these wonders : they may, or may not, be facts ; 
but when you attempt to reduce this great gift to a " science," the result 
will be failure. Try and do so. Set up a school for it ; give lectures ; 
write books ; beat it into heads ; and then say to your pupils, " Now 
that you are accomplished, go out into the world and use your eyes 
and read your fellow-men." And the pupil will, perhaps, think he does 
read them ; but, the first deduction he draws, will be the last — a wrong 
one. Neither art nor science can teach it ; neither man nor woman 
can make it theirs by any amount of labour ; where the faculty is not 
theirs by divine gift, it cannot be made to exist by human skill. 

A reader of character would have noted the contrast between those 
two young ladies as they stood there : he would have trusted the one ; 
he would not have trusted the other. And yet, Charlotte Pain had her 
good qualities also. She was kind-hearted in the main, liberal by nature, 
pleasant tempered, of a spirit firm and resolute, fitted to battle with the 
world and to make good her own way in it. But she was not truthful ; 
she was not high principled ; she was not one, whom I — had I been 
George Godolphin — would have chosen for my wife, or for my bosom 
friend. 

' Maria Hastings was eminent in what Charlotte Pain had not. Of 
rare integrity ; highly principled ; gentle, and refined ; incapable of 
deceit; and with a loving nature that could be true unto death! But 
she was a very child in the ways of the world ; timid, irresolute, unfitted 
to battle with its cares ; swayed easily by those she loved ; and all too 
passionately fond of George Godolphin. 

Look at them both now — Charlotte, with her marked, brilliant 
features ; her pointed chin, telHng of self-will ; her somewhat full, red 
lips ; the pose of the head upon her tall, firm form : her large eyes, 
made to dazzle more than to attract ; her perfectly self-possessed, not 
to say free manners ! — All told of power ; but not of innate refinement. 
Maria had too much of this refinement — if such a thing may be said 
of a young and gentle lady. She was finely and sensitively organized ; 
considerate and gentle. It would be impossible for Maria Hastings to 
hurt wilfully the feelings of a fellow-creature. To the poorest beggar 
in the street she would have been courteous, considerate, almost humble. 
Not so much as a wofd of scdrn could She cast to another, even in her 



rr^' - BROOMHEAD. ^la l^ r^ 47 

inmost heart. The very formation of her hands would betray how 
sensitive and refined was her nature., And that is another thing which 
bears its own character—the hand ; if you know how to read it. Her 
hands were of exceeding beauty; long, slender, taper fingers, of delicate 
aspect from a physical point of view. Every motion pf those, hands — 
and they were ever restless—was a word;, every unconscious, nervous 
movement of the frail, weak-looking fingers had .its peculiar character- 
istic. Maria Hastings had been accused of being vain of her hands ; 
of displaying them more than was necessary : but the accusation, utterly 
untrue, was made by those who understood her but little, and her hands 
less. Such hands are rare : and it is as well that they are so : for they 
indicate a nature far removed from the common ; a timid, intellectual, 
and painfully sensitive nature, which the rude world can neither under- 
stand, nor, perhaps, love. The gold, too much refined, is not fitted for 
ordinary uses. Charlotte Pain's hands were widely different : firm, 
plump, white; not small, and never moving unconsciously of them- 
selves. 

These pretty hands resting upon her knee, sat Maria Hastings, doing 
nothing. Maria — I grieve to have it to say of her in this very utilita- 
rian age — was rather addicted to doing nothing. In her home, the 
Rectory, Maria was reproved on that score more than on any other. 
It is ever so with those who hve much in the inward life. Maria would 
fall into a train of thought — and be idle. 

Master Reginald Hastings would have lost his bet — that George 
Godolphin would be in Scotland a week after they arrived there — had he 
found any one to take it. Ten or eleven days had elapsed, and no 
George had come, and no news of his intention of coming. It was not 
for t/iis, to be moped to death in an old Scotch country-house, that 
Charlotte Pain had accepted the invitation of Lady Godolphin. Care- 
less George — careless as to the import any of his words might bear- 
had said to her when they were talking of Scotland : " I wish you were 
to be of the party ; to help us while away the dull days." Mr. George 
had spoken in gallantry — he was top much inclined so to speak, not 
only to Charlotte — without ever dreaming that his wish would be ful- 
filled literally. But, when Lady Gpdolphin afterwards gave the invita- 
tion — Sir George had remarked aloud at the family dinner-table that 
Miss Pain had fished for it — Charlotte accepted it with undisguised 
pleasure. In point of fact, Mr. George, had the chpiee been given hmi, 
would have preferred having Maria Hastings to himself there. 

But he did not come. Eleven days, and no George Godolphin. 
Charlotte began to lay mental plans for the arrival of some sudden 
telegraphic message, demanding her immediate return to Prior's Ash ; 
and Maria could only hope, and look, and long in secret. 

It was a gloomy day; not rainy, but enveloped in mist, almost as 
bad as rain. They had gone out together, after luncheon, these two 
young ladies, but the weather drove them in again. Charlotte was 
restless and peevish. She stirred the fire as if she had a spite against it ; 
she dashed off a few bars at the piano, on which instrument she was 
a skilful player; she cut half the leaves of a hew periodical and then 
flung it from her; she admired herself in the pier-glass; she sat 
down opposite Maria Hastings and Mr stillness ; and now she jumped 



48 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



up again and violently rang the bell, to order her desk to be brought 
to her. Maria roused herself from her reverie. 

^'Charlotte, what is the matter? One would think you had St. 
Vitus's dance." 

" So I have — if to twitch all over with the fidgets is to have it. How 
you can sit so calm, so unmoved, is a marvel to me. Maria, if I were 
to be another ten days in this house, I should go mad." 
Why did you come to it ? " 
" I thought it might be a pleasant change. Ashlydyat grows gloomy 
sometimes. How was I to know my lady led so quiet a life here? 
She was always talking of ' Broomhead,' ' Broomhead !' I could not 
possibly suppose it to be so dull a place as this ! " 

It is not dull in itself. The house and grounds are charming." 
Oh dear ! " uttered Charlotte. " I wonder what fogs were sent 
for?" 

" So do I," laughed Maria. " I should have finished that sketch, 
but for this mist ." 

No saddle-horses ! " went on Charlotte. " I shall forget how to 
ride. I never heard of such a thing as a country-house without saddle- 
horses. Where was the use of bringing my new cap and habit ? Only 
to have them crushed ! " 

Maria seemed to have relapsed into thought. She made no reply. 
Presently Charlotte began again. 

" I wish I had my dogs here ! Lady Godolphin would not extend 
the invitation even to King Charlie. She said she did not like dogs. 
What a heathen she must be! If I could only see my darling pet, 
King Charlie! Kate never mentioned him once in her letter this 
morning ! " 

The words aroused Maria to animation. " Did you receive a letter 
this morning from Prior's Ash ? You did not tell me." 

" Margery brought it to my bedroom. It came last night, I fancy, 
and lay in the letter-box. I do not think Sir George ought to keep 
that letter-box entirely under his own control," continued Charlotte. 
"He grows forgetful. Some evenings I know it is never looked at." 

" I have not observed that Sir George is forgetful," dissented 
Maria. 

" You observe nothing. I say that Sir George declines daily : both 
bodily and mentally. I see a great difference in him, even in the short 
time that we have been here. He is not the man he was." 

" He has his business letters regularly ; and answers them." 

" Quite a farce to send them," mocked handsome Charlotte. " Thomas 
Godolphin is ultra-filial." 

" What news does Mrs. Verrall give you ? " inquired Maria. 

" Not much. Sarah Anne Grame is out of immediate danger, and 
the fever has attacked two or three others." 

"In Lady Sarah's house ? " 

" Nonsense ! No. That sickly girl, Sarah Anne, took it because 
I suppose she could not help it : but there's not much fear of its 
spreading to the rest of the house. If they had been going to have it, 
it would have shown itself ere this. It has crept on to those pests of 
cottages by the Pollards. The Bonds are down with it." 



BROOMHEAD. 



49 



" The worst spot it could have got to ! " exclaimed Maria. Those 
cottages are unhealthy at the best of times." 

" They had a dinner-party on Saturday," continued Charlotte. 
" At the cottages ! " 

Charlotte laughed. "At Ashlydyat. The Godolphins were there. 
At least, she mentioned Bessy, and your chosen cavalier, Mr. 
George." 

Maria's cheek flushed crimson. Charlotte Pain was rather fond of 
this kind of satire. Had she believed there was anything serious 
between George Godolphin and Maria, she would have bitten her 
tongue out rather than allude to it. It was not Charlotte's intention 
to spare him to Maria Hastings. 

Charlotte Pain at length settled herself to her desk. Maria drew 
nearer to the fire, and sat looking into it, her cheek leaning on her 
hand : sat there until the dusk of the winter's afternoon fell upon the 
room. She turned to her companion 

" Can you see, Charlotte ? " 

" Scarcely. I have just finished." 

A few minutes, and Charlotte folded her letters. Two. The one 
was directed to Mrs. Verrall ; the other to Rodolf Pain, Esquire. 

" I shall go up to dress," she said, locking her desk. 

" There's plenty of time," returned Maria. " I wonder where Sir 
George and Lady Godolphin are? They did not intend to stay out so 
late." 

" Oh, when those ancient codgers get together, talking of their past 
times and doings, they take no more heed how time goes than we do 
at a ball," carelessly spoke Charlotte. 

Maria laughed. " Lucky for you, Charlotte, that Lady Godolphin is 
not within hearing. * Ancient codgers ! ' " 

Charlotte left the room, carrying her letters with her. Maria sat 
on, some time longer — and then it occurred to her to look at her watch. 
A quarter to five. 

A quarter to five ! Had she been asleep? No, only dreaming. She 
started up, threw wide the door, and was passing swiftly into the dark 
ante-chamber. The house had not been lighted, and the only light 
came from the fire behind Maria — revealing her clearly enough, but 
rendering that ante-chamber particularly dark. Little wonder, then, 
that she gave a scream when she found herself caught in some one's 
arms, against whom she had nearly run. 

" Is it you. Sir George ? I beg your pardon." 

Not Sir George. Sir George would not have held her to him with 
that impassioned fervour. Sir George would not have taken those fond 
kisses from her lips. It was another George, just come in from his 
long day's journey. He pressed his face, cold from the fresh night air, 
upon her warm one. " My dearest ! I knew you would be the first to 
welcome me ! " 

Dark enough around, it was still ; but a light as of some sunny Eden, 
illumined the heart of Maria Hastings. The shock of joy was indeed 
great. Every vein was throbbing, every pulse tingling, and George 
Godolphin, had he never before been sure that her deep and entire love 
was his, must have known it then. 
The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 4 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAf. 



A servant was heard approaching with hghts. George Godolphin 
turned to the fire, and Maria turned and stood near him. 

^* Did any of you expect me ? " he inquired. 
Oh no ! " impulsively answered Maria. ^' I can scarcely now be- 
lieve that it is you in reality." 

He looked at her and laughed ; his gay laugh : as much as to say 
that he had given her a tolerable proof of his reality. She stood, in 
her pretty, timid manner, before the fire, her eyelids drooping, and the 
flame lighting up her fair face. 

''Is my father at home?" he asked, taking off his overcoat. He 
had walked from the railway station, a mile or two distant. 

"He went out with Lady Godolphin this morning to pay a visit to 
some old friends. I thought they would have returned long before 
this." 

'' Is he getting strong, Maria ? " 

Maria thought of what Charlotte Pain had said, and hesitated. " He 
appears to me to be better than when we left Prior's Ash. But he is 
far from strong." 

The servant finished lighting the chandelier and retired. George 
Godolphin watched the door close, and then drew Maria before him, 
gazing down at her. 

'' Let me look at you, my darling I Are you glad to see me ? " 

Glad to see him! The tears nearly welled up with the intensity of 
her emotion. '' I had begun to think you were not coming at all," she 
said, in a low tone. " Charlotte Pain received a letter from Mrs. Verrall 
this morning, in which you were mentioned as " 

Charlotte herself interrupted the conclusion of the sentence. She 
came in, dressed for dinner. George turned to greet her, his manner 
warm ; his hands outstretched. 

'' Margery said Mr. George was here ! I did not believe her ! " cried 
Charlotte, resigning her hands to him. " Did you come on the tele- 
graph-wires ? " 

" They would not havs brought me quickly enough to fotir presence," 
cried Mr. George. 

Charlotte laughed gaily. " I was just prophesying you would not 
come at all. Mrs. Verrall did not inform me that you were about to 
start, amidst her other items of intelligence. Besides, I know that you 
are rather addicted to forgetting your promises." 

"What items had Mrs. Verrall to urge against me?" demanded 
George. 

" I forget them now. Nothing I beheve. Is Prior's Ash alive 
still?" 

" It was, when I left it." 

" And the fever, George ? " inquired Maria. 

" Fever ? Oh, I don't know much about it." 

" As if fevers were in his way ! " ironically cried Charlotte Paiili 
He troubles himself no more about fevers than does Lady Go^ 
dolphin." 

" Than Lady Godolphin would like to do, I suppose you mean, Miss 
Pain ? " he rejoined. 
Maria was looking at him wistfully— almost reproachfully. He saW 



BROOMHEAD. 



it, and turned to her with a smile. "Has it in truth attacked the 
cottages down by the Pollards ? " she asked. 

George nodded. He was not so ignorant as he appeared to h^^ 
" Poor Bond had it first ; and now two of his children are attacked. I 
understand Mr. Hastings declares it is a judgment upon the town, for 
not looking better after the hovels and the drainage." 

" Has Bond recovered ? " asked Maria. 

"No." 

" Not recovered ? " she exclaimed quickly. 
" He is dead, Maria." 

She clasped her hands, shocked at the news. "Dead. Leaving 
that large, helpless family! And Sarah Anne Grame? — is she out of 
danger?" 

" From the violence of the fever. But she is in so dangerously weak 
a state from its effects, that it will be next to a miracle if she recovers. 
Lady Sarah is half out of her mind. She had ptayers put up for 
Sarah Anne on Sunday. Pretty Ethel has escaped! to the dehght 
of Prior's Ash in general, and of Thomas in particular. What 
carriage is that?" suddenly broke off George, as the sound of one 
approaching was heard. 

It proved to be Sir George's, bringing home himself and my lady. 
George hastened to meet them as they entered the hall, his handsome 
face glowing, his bright chestnut hair taking a golden tinge in the 
lamp-light, his hands held out. " My dear father ! " 

The old knight, with a cry of glad surprise, caught the hands, and 
pressed them to his heart. My lady advanced with her welcome. 
She bent her tinted cheek forwards, by way of greeting, and Mr. 
George touched it with his delicate Hps— lightly, as became its softened 
bloom. 

" So you have found your way to us, George ! I expected you would 
have done so before." 
" Did you, madam ? » 

"Did we?" cried the knight, taking up the word. "Listen to that 
vain George I He pretends to ignore the fact that there was art 
attraction here. Had a certain young lady remained at Prior's Ash, I 
expect you would not have given us much of your company at Broom- 
head. If Miss Charlotte—" 

" Did you call me, Sir George ? " interrupted Charlotte, tripping for^ 
ward from the back of the hall, where she and Maria stood, out of" 
sight, but within hearing. 

" No, my dear, I did not call you," replied Sir George Godolphin^ 



52 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

A SNAKE IN THE GRASS. 

Seated on a camp-stool, amidst a lovely bit of woodland scenery, was 
Maria Hastings. The day, beautifully bright, was warm as one in 
September ; delightful for the pleasure-seekers at Broomhead, but bad 
for the fever at Prior's Ash. Maria was putting some finishing touches 
to a sketch — she had taken many since she came — and Mr. George 
Godolphin and Charlotte Pain watched her as they pleased, or took 
sauntering strolls to a distance. 

Lady Godolphin was as fond of Broomhead as the Godolphins were 
of Ashlydyat. Certainly Broomhead was the more attractive home of 
the two. A fine house of exquisite taste ; with modern rooms and 
modern embeUishments ; and when she invited the two young ladies 
to accompany her on a visit to it, she was actuated as much by a sense 
of exultation at exhibiting the place to them, as by a desire for their 
companionship, though she did like and desire the companionship. 
; Lady Godolphin, who never read, and never worked ; in short, never 
did anything ; was obhged to have friends with her to dissipate her 
ennui and cheat time. She liked young ladies best ; for they did not 
interfere with her own will, and were rarely exacting visitors. 

But she required less of this companionship at Broomhead. There 
she knew every one, and every one knew her. She was sufficiently 
familiar with the smallest and poorest cottage to take an interest in its 
ill-doings and its short-comings ; at least, as much interest as it was 
possible to the nature of Lady Godolphin to take. Old acquaintances 
dropped in without ceremony and remained the morning with her, gossip- 
ing of times past and present : or she dropped into their houses, and 
remained with them. Of gaiety there was none : Sir George's state of 
health forbade it : and in this quiet social intercourse — which Charlotte 
Pain held in especial contempt — the young visitors were not wanted. 
Altogether they were much at liberty, and went roaming where they 
would, under the protection of Mr. George Godolphin. 

He had now been a week at Broomhead: flirting with Charlotte, 
giving stolen minutes to Maria. A looker-on might have decided that 
Miss Pain was the gentleman's chief attraction, for, in public, his 
attentions were principally given to her. She may be pardoned for 
estimating them at more than they were worth: but she could very 
well have welcomed any friendly wind that would have wafted away 
Maria, and have kept her away. They knew, those two girls, that 
their mutual intercourse was of a hollow nature ; their paraded friend- 
ship, their politeness, rotten at the core. Each was jealous of the 
other ; and the one subject which filled their minds was never alluded 
to in conversation. Either might have affirmed to the other, You 
are aware that I watch you and George : my jealous eyes are upon 
your every movement, my jealous ears are ever open." But these 
avowals are not made in social life, and Charlotte and Maria observed 



A SNAKE IN THE GRASS. 



53 



studied courtesy, making believe to be mutually unconscious : knowing 
all the time that the consciousness existed in a remarkable degree. It 
was an artificial state of things. 

" How dark you are putting in those trees ! " exclaimed Charlotte 
Pain. 

Maria paused, pencil in hand ; glanced at the trees opposite, and at 
the trees on paper. " Not too dark," she said. " The grove is a heavy 
one." 

"What's that queer-looking thing in the corner ? It is like a half- 
moon, coming down to pay us a visit." 

Maria held out her sketch at arm's distance, laughing merrily. 
" You do not understand perspective, Charlotte. Look at it now." 

" Not I,*" said Charlotte. " I understand nothing of the work. They 
tried to teach me when I was a child, but I never could make a straight 
line without the ruler. After all, where's the use of it ? The best-made 
sketch cannot rival its model — nature." 

" But sketches serve to remind us of familiar places, when we are 
beyond their reach," was Maria's answer. " I love drawing." 

" Maria draws well," observed George Godolphin, from his swinging 
perch on the branch of a neighbouring tree. 

She looked up at him, almost gratefully. " This will be one of the 
best sketches I have taken here," she said. " It is so thoroughly pic- 
turesque ; and that farm-house, under the hill, gives life to the 
picture." 

Charlotte Pain cast her eyes upon the house in the distance over the 
green field, to which she had not before vouchsafed a glance. A shade 
of contempt crossed her face. 

" Call /ka^ a farm-house ! I should say it was a tumble-down old 
cottage." 

"It is large for a cottage; and has a. barn and a shed round it," 
returned Maria. " I conclude that it was a farm some time." 
"It is not inhabited," said Charlotte. 

" Oh, yes it is. There is a woman standing at the door. I have put 
her into my sketch." 

" And her pipe also ? " cried George. 
"Her pipe!" 

George took his own cigar from his mouth, as he answered. " She is 
smoking, that woman. A short pipe." 

Maria shaded her ^yes with her hand, and gazed attentively. " I— 
really — do — think — she — is!" she exclaimed slowly. "What a strange 
thing!" 

" A Welshwoman married to a Scotch husband, possibly,'^ suggested 
Charlotte. " The Welsh smoke." 

"I'll make her a Welshwoman," said Maria gaily, "with a man's 
coat, and a man's hat. But, there's — there's another now. George, it 
is Margery ! " 

" Yes," said Mr. George composedly. " I saw her go in half an hour 
ago. How smart she is ! She must be paying morning calls." 

They laughed at this, and watched Margery. A staid woman of 
middle age, who had been maid to the late Mrs. Godolphin. Margery 
dressed plainly, but she certainly looked smart to-day, as the sun's 



S4 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



rays fell upon her. The sun was unusually bright, and Charlotte Pain 
remarked it, saying it made her eyes ache. 

" Suspiciously bright," observed George Godolphin. 

"Suspiciously?" 

He flirted the ashes from his cigar with his finger. " Suspicious of a 
storm," he said. " We shall have it, ere long. See those clouds. They 
look small and inoffensive ; but they mean mischief." 

Charlotte Pain strolled away over the meadows towards the side 
path on which Margery was advancing. George Godolphin leaped from 
his seat, apparently with the intention of following her. But first of all 
he approached Maria, and bent to look at h6r progress. 

^' Make the farm — as you call it— very conspicuous, Maria, if you are 
going to keep the sketch as a memento," said he. 

" Is it not a farm?" 

" It was, once ; until idleness suffered it to drop through." 

" Why should I make it particularly conspicuous ? " she continued. 

There was no reply, and she looked quickly np. A peculiar expression, 
one which she did not understand, sat upon his face. 

"If we had a mind to cheat the world, Maria, we might do so, by 
paying a visit to that house." 

" In what way?" 

" I might take you in Maria Hastings, and bring you out Mrs, George 
Godolphin." 

" What do you mean ? " she inquired, completely puzzled. 

Mr. George laughed. "The man who lives there, Sandy Bray, has 
made more couples one than a rustic parson. Some people call him a 
pubhc nuisance; others say he is a convenience, as it is three miles to 
the nearest kirk. He goes by the nickname of Minister Bray. Many 
a lad and lassie have stolen in there, under cover of the twilight, and 
in five minutes have come forth again, married, the world being none 
the wiser." 

"Is it the place they call Gretna Green?" inquired Maria in much 
astonishment. 

" No, it is not Gretna Green. Only a place of the same description, 
and equally serviceable." 

" But such marriages cannot be binding ! " 

" Indeed they are. You have surely heard of the Scotch laws ? " 

" I have been told that any one can marry people in Scotland. I have 
heard that the simple declaration of saying you take each other for man 
and wife constitutes a marriage." 

" Yes ; if said before a witness. Would you like to try it, 
Maria?" 

The colour mantled to her face as she bent over her drawing. She 
smiled at the joke, simply shaking her head by way of answer. And 
Mr. George Godolphin went off laughing, lighting another cigar as he 
walked. Overtaking Charlotte Pain just as Margery came up, he 
accosted the latter. 

" How grand you are, Margery ! What's agate ? " 

" Grand ! " returned Margery. " Who says it ? What is there grand 
about me ? " 

"That shawl displays as many colours as a kaleidoscope. We 



A SNAKE IN THE GRASS. 

thought it was a rainbow coming along. Did it arrive in an express 
parcel last night from Paisley ? " 

" It isn't me that has money to spend upon parcels ! " retorted 
Margery. " I have too many claims dragging my purse at both ends, 
for that." 

A faithful servant was Margery, in spite of her hard features, and her 
stern speech. Scant of ceremony she had always been, and scant of 
ceremony she would remain. In fact, she was given to treating the 
younger branches of the Godolphins, Mr. George included, very much 
as she had treated them when they were children. They knew her 
sterling worth, and did not quarrel with her severe manners. 

^' When you have half a dozen kin pulling at you, ' I want this ! ' 
from one, and ' I want that ! ' from another, and the same cry running 
through all, it isn't much money you can keep to spend on shawls," 
resumed Margery. "I was a fool to come here; that's what I was! 
When the master said to me, * You had better come with us, Margery/ 
I ought to have answered, * No, Sir George, I'm better away.'" 

"Well, what is the grievance, Margery?" George asked, while 
Charlotte Pain turned from one to the other in curiosity. 

" Why, they are on at me for money, that's what it is, Mr. George. 
My lady sent for me this morning to say she intended to call and see 
Sehna to-day. Of course I knew what it meant — that I was to go and 
give them a hint to have things tidy — for, if there's one thing my lady 
won't do, it is to put her foot into a pigsty. So I threw on my shawl, 
that you are laughing at, and went. There was nothing the matter 
with the place, for a wonder ; but there was with them. Selina, she's 
in bed, ill — and if she frets as she's fretting now, she won't get out of 
it in a hurry. Why did she marry the fellow.^ It does make me so 
vexed ! " 

" What has she to fret about ?" continued George. 

"What does she always have to fret about?" retorted Margery. 
" His laziness, and the children's ill-doings. They go roaming about 
the country, here, there, and everywhere, after work, as they say, after 
places; and then they get into trouble and untold worry, and come 
home or send home for money to help them out of it ! One of them, 
Nick — and a good name for him, say I ! — must be off into Wales to 
those relations of Bray's ; and he has been at some mischief there, and 
is in prison for it, and is now committed for trial. And the old woman 
has walked all the way here to get funds from them, to pay for his 
defence. The news has half killed Sehna." 

" I said she was a Welshwoman," interrupted Charlotte Pain. " She 
was smoking, was she not, Margery? " 

" She's smoking a filthy short pipe," wrathfully returned Margery. 
" But for that, I should have said she was a decent body — although 
it's next to impossible to understand her tongue. She puts in ten words 
of Welsh to two of Enghsh. Of course they have no money to furnis/ 
for it ; it wouldn't be them, if they had ; so they are wanting to get 
out of me. Fifteen or twenty pounds ! My word ! They'd like me to 
end my days in the workhouse." 

" You might turn a deaf ear, Margery," said George. 
I know I might; and many a hundred times have I vowed I 



S6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



would," returned Margery. But there's she in her bed, poor thing, 
sobbing and moaning, and asking if Nick is to be quite abandoned. 
The worse a lad turns out, the more a mother clings to him — as it 
seems to me. Let me be here, or let me be at Ashlydyat, I have no 
peace for their wants. By word of mouth or by letter they are on at 
me for ever." 

''If 'Nick' has a father, why can he not supply him?" asked 
Charlotte. 

" It's a sensible question. Miss Pain," said the woman. " Nick's 
father is one of those stinging-nettles that only encumber the world, 
doing no good for themselves nor for anybody else. ' Minister ' Bray, 
indeed ! it ought to be something else, I think. Many a one has had 
cause to rue the hour that he ' ministered ' for them ! " 

" How does he minister.^ — what do you mean? " wondered Charlotte. 

" He marries folks ; that's his ne'er-do-well occupation. Miss Pain. 
Give him a five-shilling piece, and he'd marry a boy to his grand- 
mother. I'm Scotch by birth — though it's not much that I have lived 
in the land — but, I do say, that to suffer such laws to stand good, is 
a sin and a shame. Two foolish children — and many of those that go 
to him are no better — stand before him for a half-minute, and he 
pronounces them to be man and wife ! And man and wife they are, 
and must remain so, till the grave takes one of them : whatever their 
repentance may be when they wake up from their folly. It's just one 
of the blights upon bonny Scotland." 

Margery, with no ceremonious leave-taking, turned at the last words, 
and continued her way. George Godolphin smiled at the blank ex- 
pression displayed on Charlotte Pain's countenance. Had Margery 
talked in Welsh, as did the old woman with the pipe, she could not 
have less understood her. 

" You require the key, Charlotte," said he. " Shall I give it to you ? 
Margery was my mother's maid, as you may have heard. Her sister, 
Selina, was maid to the present Lady Godolphin : not of late years : 
long and long before she ever knew my father. It appears the girl, 
Selina, was a favourite with her mistress ; but she left her, in spite of 
opposition from all quarters, to marry Mr. Sandy Bray. And has, 
there's no doubt, been rueing it ever since. There are several children, 
of an age now to be out in the world ; but you heard Margery's account 
of them. I fear they do pull unconscionably at poor Margery's purse- 
strings." 

" Why does she let them do so ? " asked Charlotte. 

Mr. George opened his penknife and ran the point of it through his 
cigar, ere he answered. " Margery has a soft place in her heart. As I 
believe most of us have — if our friends could but give us credit for it." 

" How strange the two sisters should live, the one with your father's 
first wife, the other with his second ! " exclaimed Charlotte, when she 
had given a few moments to thought. " Were they acquainted with 
each other ? — the ladies." 

" Not in the least. They never saw each other. I believe it was 
through these women being sisters that my father became acquainted 
with the present Lady Godolphin. He was in Scotland with Janet, 
visiting my mother's family ; and Margery, }y\\o was with them, brought 



A SNAKE IN THE GRASS. 



57 



Janet to that very house, there, to see her sister. Mrs. Campbell — as 
she was, then— happened to have gone there that day : and that's how 
the whole thing arose. People say there's a fatality in all things. One 
would think it must be so. Until that day, Mrs. Campbell had not 
been in the house for two or three years, and would not be likely to go 
into it again for two or three more.'' 
''Is Bray a ^naiivais stijei ? " 

George lifted his eyebrows. " I don't know that there's much against 
him, except his incorrigible laziness : that's bad enough when a man 
has children to keep. Work he will not. Beyond the odds and ends 
that he gets by the exercise of what he is pleased to call his trade, the 
fellow earns nothing. Lady Godolphin is charitable to the wife ; and 
poor Margery, as she says, finds her purse drawn at both ends." 

" I wondered why Margery came to Scotland," observed Charlotte, 
" not being Lady Godolphin's maid. What is Margery's capacity in 
your family ? I have never been able to find out." 

" It might puzzle herself to tell you what it is, now. After my 
mother's death, she Avaited on my sisters : but when they left Ashlydyat, 
Margery declined to follow them. She would not leave Sir George. 
She is excessively attached to him, almost as much so as she was to 
my mother. That quitting Ashlydyat, ourselves first, and then my 
father, was a blow to Margery," George added in a dreamy tone. 
" She has never been the same since." 

" It was Margery, was it not, who attended upon Sir George in his 
long illness } " 

"I do not know what he would have done without her," spoke 
George Godolphin in a tone that betrayed its own gratitude. " In 
sickness she is invaluable : certainly not to be replaced, where she is 
attached. Lady Godolphin, though in her heart I do not fancy she 
likes Margery, respects her for her worth." 

" I cannot say I hke her," said Charlotte Pain. " Her manners are 
too independent. I have heard her order you about very cavalierly." 

" And you will hear her again," said George Godolphin. " She 
exercised great authority over us when we were children, and she 
looks upon us as children still. Her years have grown with ours, and 
there is always the same distance as to age between us. I speak of the 
younger amongst us : to Thomas and Janet she is ever the respectful 
servant ; in a measure also to Bessy : of myself and Cecil she considers 
herself partial mistress." 

" If they are so poor as to drain Margery of her money, how is it 
they can live in that house and pay its rent?" inquired Charlotte, 
looking towards the building. 

" It is Bray's own. The land, belonging to it, has been mortgaged 
three deep long ago. He might have been in a tolerably good position, 
had he chosen to make the most of his chances : he was not born a 
peasant." 

" Who is this.^" exclaimed Charlotte. 

A tall, slouching man, with red hair and heavy shoulders, was ad- 
vancing towards them from the house. George turned to look. 

" That is Bray himself. Look at the lazy fellow ! You may tell his 
temperament from his gait." 



5S 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



George Godolphin was right. The man was not walking along, but 
sauntering ; turning to either side and bending his head as if flowers 
lay in his path and he \vished to look at them : his hands in his 
pockets, his appearance anything but fresh and neat. They watched 
him come up. He touched his hat then, and accosted Mr. George 
Godolphin. 

" My service to ye, sir. I didna know you were in these parts." 

" So you are still in the land of the living, Bray ! " was Mr. George's 
response. " How is business?" 

"Dull as a dyke," returned Bray. "Times are bad. I've hardly 
took a crown in the last three months, sir. I shall have to emigrate, 
if this is to go on." 

" I fear you would scarcely find another country so tolerant to your 
peculiar calling. Bray," said George, some mockery in his tone. " And 
what would the neighbourhood do without you? It must resign itself 
to single blessedness." 

" The neighbourhood dunna come to me. Folk go over to the kirk 
now : that has come into fashion; and I'm going down. 'Twas different 
in past times. A man would give a ten-pun note then to have things 
done neatly and quietly. But there's fresh notions and fresh havers ; 
and, for all the good they have done me, I might as well be out of the 
world. Is this Miss Cecil?" 

The last question was put abruptly, the man turning himself full 
upon Charlotte Pain, and scanning her face. George Godolphin was 
surprised out of an answer : had he taken a moment for reflection, he 
might have deemed the question an impertinence, and passed it by. 

" Miss Cecilia is not in Scotland." 

" I thought it might be her," said the man ; " for Miss Cecil's looks 
are a country's talk, and I have heard much of them. I see now : 
there's nought of the Godolphin there. But it's a bonny face, young 
lady : and I dare say there's those that are finding it so." 

He shambled on, with a gesture of the hand by way of salutation. 
Charlotte Pain did not dislike the implied compliment. " How can 
this man marry people?" she exclaimed. " He is no priest." 

"He can, and he does marry them ; and is not interfered with, or 
forbidden," said George Godolphin. " At least, he did do so. By his 
own account, his patronage seems to be on the decline." 

" Did he marry them openly? " 

" Well — no ; I conclude not. If people found it convenient to marry 
openly, they would not go to him. And why they should go to him 
at all, puzzles me, and always has : for, the sort of marriage that he 
performs can be performed by any one wearing a coat, in Scotland, 
or by the couple themselves. But he has acquired a name, ^ Minister 
Bray ; ' and a great deal lies in a name for ladies' ears." 

" Ladies ! " cried Charlotte scornfully. " Only the peasants went to 
him, I am sure." 

" Others have gone as well as peasants. Bray boasts yet of a fifty- 
pound note, once put into his hand for pronouncing the benediction. 
It is a ceremony that we are given to be lavish upon," added George, 
laughing. " I have heard of money being grudged for a funeral, but I 
never did for a wedding," 



A SNAKE IN THE GRASS. 59 

'^Were I compelled to be a resident of this place, I should get 
married myself, out of sheer ennui, or do something else as desperate," 
she exclaimed, 

<^ You find it dull?" 

" It has been more tolerable since you came," she frankly avowed. 

George raised his hat, and his blue eyes shot a glance into hers. 
" Thank you, Charlotte." 

"Why were you so long in coming? Do you know what I had 
done ? I had written a letter to desire Mrs. Verrall to recall me. 
Another week of it would have turned me melancholy. Your advent 
was better than nobody's." 

" Thank you again, mademoiselle. When I promise " 

"Promise," she warmly interrupted. " T have learnt what your 
promises are worth. , Oh, but, George, tell me — What was it that you 
and Lady Godolphin were saying yesterday? It was about Ethel 
Grame. I only caught a word here and there." 

"Thomas wishes Lady Godolphin would invite Ethel here for the 
remainder of their stay. He thinks Ethel would be all the better for a 
change, after being mured up in that fever-tainted house. But, don't 
talk of it. It was only a little private negotiation that Thomas was 
endeavouring to carry out upon his own account. He wrote to me, 
and he wrote to my lady. Ethel knows nothing of it." 

" And what does Lady Godolphin say? " 

George drew in his hps. "She says No. As 1 expected. And I 
believe she is for once sorry to say it, for pretty Ethel is a favourite of 
hers. But she retains her dread of the fever. Her argument is, that, 
although Ethel has escaped it in her own person, she might possibly 
bring it here in her boxes." 

"Stuff!" cried Charlotte Pain. " Sarah Anne might do so; but I 
do not see how Ethel could. I wonder Thomas does not marry, and 
have done with it ! He is old enough." 

" And Ethel young enough. It will not be delayed long now. The 
vexatious question, concerning residence, must be settled in some way." 

"What residence? What is vexatious about it?" quickly asked 
Charlotte, curiously. 

" There is some vexation about it, in some way or other," returned 
George with indifference, not choosing to speak more openly. "It is 
not my affair ; it lies between Thomas and Sir George. When Thomas 
comes here next week " 

" Is Thomas coming next week?" she interrupted. 

"That is the present plan. And I return." 

She threw her flashing eyes at him. They said — well, they said a 
good deal: perhaps Mr. George could read it. "You had better get 
another letter of recall written, Charlotte," he resumed in a tone which 
might be taken for jest or earnest, " and give me the honour of your 
escort." 

" How you talk ! " returned she peevishly. " As if Lady Godolphin 
would allow me to go all that way under your escort ! As if I would 
go myself! " 

" You might have a less safe one, Charlotte mia," cried Mr. George 
somewhat saucily. " No lion should come near you, to eat you up." 



6o 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



George," resumed Charlotte, after a pause, ^' I wish you would tell 
me whether Mrs. Verrall Good Heavens ! what's that?" 

Sounds of distress were sounding in their ears. They turned 
hastily. Maria Hastings, her camp-stool overturned, her sketching 
materials scattered on the ground, was flying towards them, calhng 
upon George Godolphin to save her. There was no mistaking that 
she was in a state of intense terror. 

Charlotte Pain wondered if she had gone mad. She could see 
nothing to alarm her. George Godolphin cast his rapid glance to the 
spot where she had sat, and could see nothing, either. He hastened 
to meet her, and caught her in his arms, into which she literally threw 
herself. 

Entwined round her left wrist was a small snake, or reptile of the 
species, more than a foot long. It looked like an eel, writhing there. 
Maria had never come into personal contact with anything of the sort : 
but she remembered what had been said of the deadly bite of a serpent ; 
and terror completely overmastered her. 

He seized it and flung it from her ; he laid her poor terrified face 
upon his breast, that she might there sob out her fear ; he cast a greedy 
glance at her wrist, where the thing had been : and his own face had 
turned white with emotion. 

" My darling, there is no injury," he soothingly whispered. " Be 
calm ! be calm ! " And, utterly regardless of the presence of Charlotte 
Pain, he laid his cheek against hers, as if to reassure her, and kept it 
there. 

Less regardless, possibly, had he seen Charlotte Pain's countenance. 
It was dark as night. The scales were rudely torn from her eyes : and 
she saw, in that moment, how fallacious had been her own hopes 
touching George Godolphin. 



CHAPTER IX. 

MR. SANDY'S "TRADE." 

" What ever is the matter? " 

The interruption came from Lady Godolphin. Charlotte Pain had 
perceived her approach, but had ungraciously refrained from intima- 
ting it to her companions. My lady, a coquettish white bonnet shading 
her delicate face, and her little person enveloped in a purple velvet 
mantle trimmed with ermine, was on her way to pay a visit to her 
ex-maid, Selina. She surveyed the group with intense astonishment. 
Maria Hastings, white, sobbing, clinging to George Godolphin in 
unmistakable terror; Mr. George soothing her in rather a marked 
manner; and Charlotte Pain, erect, haughty, her arms folded, her 
head drawn up, giving no assistance, her countenance about as pleasant 
as a demon's my lady had once the pleasure of seeing at the play. She 
called out the above words before she was well up with them. 

George Godolphin did not release Maria ; he simply lifted his head. 
" She has been very much terrifiedj Lady Godolphin ; but no harm is 



MR. SANDY'S "TRADE." 



6i 



done. A reptile of the snake species fastened itself on her wrist. I 
have flung it off." 

He glanced towards the spot where stood Lady Godolphin, as much 
as to imply that he had flung the offender there. My lady shrieked, 
caught up her petticoats, we won't say how high, and leaped away 
nimbly. 

I never heard of such a thing ! " she exclaimed. " A snake ! What 
should bring snakes about, here? " 

" Say a serpent ! " broke from the pale lips of Charlotte Pain. 

Lady Godolphin did not detect the irony, and felt really alarmed. 
Maria, growing calmer, and perhaps feeling half ashamed of the emo- 
tion which fear had caused her to display, drew away from George 
Godolphin. He would not suffer that, and made her take his arm. 

I am sorry to have alarmed you all so much," she said. " Indeed, I 
could not help it. Lady Godolphin." 

" A serpent in the grass ! " repeated her ladyship, unable to get over 
the surprise. ^ How did it come to you, Maria ? Were you lying down " 
I was sitting on the camp-stool, there ; busy with my drawing," she 
answered. " My left hand was hanging down, touching, I believe, the 
grass. I began to feel something cold at my wrist, but at first did not 
notice it. Then I lifted it and saw that dreadful thing wound round it. 
I could not shake it off. Oh, Lady Godolphin ! I felt — I hardly know 
how I felt — almost as if I should have died, had there been no one 
near to run to." 

Lady Godolphin, her skirts still lifted, the tips of her toes touching 
the path' gingerly, to which they had now hastened, and her eyes alert, 
lest the serpent should come trailing forth from any unexpected direc- 
tion, remarked that it was a mercy Maria had escaped with only 
fright. " You seem to experience enough of that," she said. " Don't 
faint, child." 

Maria's lips parted with a sickly smile, which she meant should be a 
brave one. She was both timid and excitable ; and, if terror did attack 
her, she felt it in no common degree. What would have been but a 
passing fear to another, forgotten almost as soon as felt, was to her 
agony. Remarkably susceptible, was she, to the extreme of pleasure 
and the extreme of pain. " There is no fear of my fainting," she 
answered to Lady Godolphin. " I never fainted in my life." 

I am on my road to see an old servant who lives in that house," 
said Lady Godolphin, pointing to the tenement, little thinking how far 
it had formed their theme of discourse. ^' You shall come with me and 
rest, and have some water." 

" Yes, that is the best thing to be done," said George Godolphin. 
" I'll take you there, Maria, and then I'll have a hunt after the beast. 
I ought to have killed him at the time." 

Lady Godolphin walked on, Charlotte Pain at her side. Charlotte's 
lip was curling. 

The house door, to which they were bound, stood open. Across its 
lower portion, as if to prevent the exit of children, was a board, formerly 
placed there for that express purpose. The children^ were gro^n now 
and scattered, but the board remained; the inmates stepping over it 
at their will. Sandy Bray, who must have skulked back to his home 



6i> THfi ShAOSW GF^AS'MLrDVAT. 



by some unseen circuit, made a rush to the board at sight of Lady 
Godolphin, and pulled it out of its grooves, leaving the entrance clear. 
But for his intense idleness, he, knowing she was coming, would have 
removed it earlier. 

They entered upon a large room, half sitting-room, half kitchen, its 
boarded floor very clean. The old Welshwoman, a cleanly, well- 
mannered, honest-faced old woman, was busy knitting then, and came 
forward, curtseying: no vestige of pipe to be seen or smelt. " Selina 
was in bed," Bray said, standing humbly before Lady Godolphin. 
*^ Selina had heard bad news of one of the brats, and had worried her- 
self sick over it, as my lady knew it was in the stupid nature of Selina 
to do. Would my lady be pleased to step up to see her ? " 

Yes ; my lady would be pleased to do so by-and-by. But at present 
she directed a glass of water to be brought to Miss Hastings. Bray 
brought the water in a cracked yellow cup. 

" Eh, but there is some of them things about here," he said, when 
the cause of alarm was mentioned. " I think there must be a nest of 
'em. They are harmless, so far as I know." 

Why don't you find the nest? " asked Mr. George Godolphin. 

"And what good, if I did find 'em, sir?" said he. 

" Kill the lot," responded George. 

He strode out of the house, Bray following in his wake, to look for 
the reptile which had caused the alarm. Bray was sure nothing would 
come of it : the thing had had time to get clear away. 

In point of fact, nothing did come of it. George Godolphin could 
not decide upon the precise spot where they had stood when he threw 
away the reptile ; and, to beat over the whole field, which was exten- 
sive, would have been endless work. He examined carefully the spot 
where Maria had sat, both he and Bray, but could see no trace of any- 
thing alarming. Gathering up her treasures, including the camp-stool, 
he set off with them. Bray made a feeble show of offering to bear the 
stool. " No," said George, " I'll carry it myself : it would be too much 
trouble for you." 

Charlotte Pain stood at the door, watching as they approached, her 
rich cheek glowing, her eye flashing. Never had she looked more 
beautiful, and she bent her sweetest smile upon Mr. George, who had 
the camp-stool swinging on his back. Lady Godolphin had gone up 
to the invalid. Maria, quite herself again, came forward. 

" No luck," said George. " I meant to have secured the fellow and put 
him under a glass case as a memento : but he has been too cunning. 
Here's your sketch, Maria; undamaged. And here are the other 
rattletraps." 

She bent over the drawing quite fondly. " I am glad I had finished 
it," she said. " I can do the filling-in later. I should not have had 
courage to sit in that place again." 

" Well, old lady," cried George in his free-and-easy manner, as he 
stood by the Welshwoman, and looked down at her nimble fingers, " so 
you have come all the way from Wales on foot, I hear! You put some 
of us to shame." 

She looked up and smiled pleasantly. She understood EngUsh better 
than she could speak it. 



MR. SANDY'S ''TRADE." 



63 



Not on foot all the way," she managed to explain. ^' On foot to 
the great steamer, and then on foot again after the steamer landed her 
in Scotland. Not less than a hundred miles of land, taking both ways 
together." 

"Oh, I see ! " said George, perceiving that Margery had taken up a 
wrong impression. " But you must have been a good time doing 
that?" 

She had the time before her," she answered, more by signs than 
words, and her legs were used to the roads. In her husband's life- 
time she had oftentimes accompanied him on foot to different parts of 
England, when he went there with his droves of cattle. It was in 
those journeys that she learnt to talk Enghsh." 

George laughed at her idea of talking English. " Did you learn the 
use of the pipe also in the journeys, old lady?" 

She certainly had ; for she nodded fifty times in answer, and looked 
delighted at his divination. " But she was obliged to put up with 
cheap tobacco now," she said : and had a trouble to get that ! " 

George pulled out a supply of Turkey from some hidden receptacle 
of his coat. " Did she hke that sort ? " 

She looked at it with the eye of a connoisseur, touched it, smelt it, 
and finally tasted it. " Ah, yes ! that was good ; very good ; too good 
for her." 

" Not a bit of it," said George. " It's yours, old lady. There ! It will 
keep your pipe going, on the road home." 

When fully convinced that he meant it in earnest, she Seized his 
hand, shook it heartily, and plunged into a Welsh oration. It was cut 
short in the midst. She caught sight of Bray, coming in at the house 
door, and smuggled the present out of sight amidst her petticoats. 
Had Mr. Sandy seen it, she might have derived little benefit from it 
herself. 

Time lagged, while they waited for Lady Godolphin. The conversa- 
tion fell upon Bray's trade — as the man was wont to call it : though 
who or what led to the topic none of them could remember. He 
recounted two or three interesting incidents ; one, of a gentleman 
marrying a young wife and being shot dead the next day by her friends. 
She was an heiress, and they had run away from Ireland. But that 
occurred years and years ago, he added. Would the ladies like to see 
the room ? 

He opened a door at the back of the kitchen, traversed a passage, and 
entered a small place, which could only be called a room by courtesy. 
They followed, wonderingly. The walls were whitewashed, the floor 
was of brick, and the small skylight, by which it was lighted, was of 
thick coarse glass, embellished with green nobs. What with the 
lowering sky, and this lowering window, the room wore an appearance 
of the gloomiest twilight. No furniture was in it, except a table (or 
something that served for one) covered with a green baize cloth, on 
which lay a book. The contrast from the kitchen, bright with its fire, 
with the appliances of household life, to this strange comfortless place 
made them shiver. " A fit place for the noose to be tied in ! " cried 
irreverent George, surveying it critically. 

Bray took the words literally. *^Yes," said he. ^^It's kept for that 



64 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



purpose alone. It is a bit out of the common, and that pleases the 
women. If I said the words in my kitchen, it might not be so satisfying 
to them, ye see. It does not take two minutes to do," he added, taking 
his stand behind the table and opening the book. " I wish I had as 
many pieces of gold as I have done it, here, in my time." 

Charlotte Pain took up the words defiantly. " It is impossible that 
such a marriage can stand. It is not a marriage." 

^' 'Deed, but it is, young lady." 

"It cannot be legal," she haughtily rejoined. "If it stands good for 
this loose-lawed country, it cannot do so for others." 

" Ay, how about that ? " interrupted George, still in his light tone of 
ridicule. " Would it hold good in England ? " 

Minister Bray craned his long neck towards them, over the table, 
where they stood in a group. He took the hand of George Godolphin, 
and that of Charlotte Pain, and put them to together. " Ye have but to 
say, ' I take you, young lady, to be my lawful wife ; ' and, * I take you, sir, 
to be my husband,' in your right names. I'd then pronounce ye man 
and wife, and say the blessing on it ; and the deed would be done, and 
hold good all over the world." 

Did Mr. Sandy Bray anticipate that he might thus extemporise an 
impromptu ceremony, which should bring some grist to his empty mill ? 
Not improbably : for he did not release their hands, but kept them joined 
together, looking at both in silence. 

George Godolphin was the first to draw his hand away. Charlotte 
had only stared with wondering eyes, and she now burst into a laugh 
of ridicule. " Thank you for your information," said Mr. George. 
" There's no knowing. Bray, but I may call your services into requisition 
some time." 

" Where are you ? " came the soft voice of Lady Godolphin down 
the passage. " We must all hurry home : it is going to rain. 
Charlotte, are you there ? Where have you all gone to ? Charlotte, 
I say ? " 

Charlotte hastened out. Lady Godolphin took her arm at once, and 
walked with a quick step through the kitchen into the open air, nodding 
adieu to the old Welshwoman. My lady herself, her ermine, her velvets, 
possibly her delicately-bloomed complexion, all shrank from the violence 
of a storm. Storms, neither of life nor of weather, had ever come too 
near Lady Godolphin. She glanced upward at the threatening and angry 
sky, and urged Charlotte on. 

" Can you walk fast ? So lovely a morning as it was! " 

" Here comes one of the servants," exclaimed Charlotte. " With 
umbrellas, no doubt. How he runs ! " 

My lady lifted her eyes. Advancing towards them with fleet foot, 
as if he were running for a wager, came a man in the Godolphin livery. 
If umbrellas had been the object of his coming, he must have dropped 
them on his way, for his arms swung beside him, and his hands were 
empty. 

" My lady," cried the man, almost as much out of breath as Lady 
Godolphin : " Sir George is taken ill." 

My lady stopped then. " 111 ! " she repeated. " 111 in what way ? " 
" Margery has just found him lying on the floor of his room, my lady. 



MR. SANDY'S "TRADE." • 65 



We have got him on to the bed, but he appears to be quite insensible. 
Andrew has gone for the doctor.'' 

" Hasten to the house there, and acquaint Mr. George Godolphin," 
said my lady, pointing to Bray's. 

But Charlotte had already gone on the errand. She left Lady 
Godolphin's arm and started back with all speed, calling out that she 
would inform Mr. George Godolphin. My lady, on her part, had sped 
on in the direction of Broomhead, with a fleeter foot than before. 

Leaving the man standing where he was. " Which of the two am I 
to follow, I wonder ? " he soHloquized. " I suppose I had better keep 
up with my lady." 

When Charlotte Pain had left Mr. Sandy Bray's match-making room, 
at my lady's call, George Godolphin turned with a rapid, impulsive 
motion to Maria Hastings, caught her hand, and drew her beside him, 
as he stood before Bray. " Maria, she will fetter me in spite of 
myself ! " he said in a hoarse whisper. " Let me put it out of her 
power." 

Maria looked at him inquiringly. Well she might ! 
j " Be mine now ; here," he rapidly continued, bending his face so that 
she alone might hear. " I swear that I never will presume upon the 
act, until it can be more legally solemnized. But it will bind us to 
each other beyond the power of man or woman to set aside." 

Maria turned red, pale, any colour that you will, and quietly drew 
her hand from that of Mr. George Godolphin. " I do not quite know 
whether you are in earnest or in jest, George. You will allow me to 
infer the latter." 

Quiet as were the words, calm as was the manner, there was that 
about her which unmistakably showed Mr. George Godolphin that he 
might not venture further to forget himself; if, indeed, he had not 
been in jest. Maria, a true gentlewoman at heart, professed to assume 
that he had been. 

" I beg your pardon," he murmured. " Nay, let me make my peace, 
Maria." And he took her hand again, and held it in his. Minister 
Bray leaned towards them with an earnest face. Resigning the hope 
of doing any little stroke of business on his own account, he sought to 
obtain some information on a different subject. 

s " Sir, would ye be pleased to tell me a trifle about your criminal laws, 
over the border? One of my ne'er-do-weels has been getting into 
trouble there, and they may make him smart for it." 

George Godolphin knew that he alluded to the ill-starred Nick. 
" What are the circumstances } " he asked. " I will tell you what I 
can." 

Sandy entered upon the story. They stood before him, absorbed in 
it, for Maria also listened with interest, when an exclamation caused 
them to turn. Maria drew her hand from George Godolphin's with a 
qui^k gesture. There stood Charlotte Pain. 

• Stood with a white face, and a flashing, haughty eye. "We are 
coming instantly," said George. "We shall catch you up." For he 
thought she had reappeared to remind them. 

"It is well," she answered. " And it may be as well to haste, Mr. 
Peorge Godolphin, if you would see your father alive." 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat, 5 



66 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"What?" he answered. But Charlotte had turned again and was 
gone hke the wind. With all his speed, he could not catch her up 
until they had left the house some distance behind them. 



CHAPTER X. 

< 

THE SHADOW. 

In the heart of the town of Prior's Ash was situated the banking- 
house of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin. Built at the corner of a 
street, it faced two ways. The bank and its doors were in High 
Street, the principal street of the town ; the entrance to the dwelling- 
house was in Crosse Street, a new, short street, not much frequented, 
which had been called after Mr. Crosse, who, at the time it was made, 
lived at the bank. There were only six or eight houses in Crosse 
Street ; detached private dwellings ; and the street led to the open 
country, and to a pathway, not a carriage-way, that would, if you liked 
to follow it, take you to Ashlydyat. 

The house attached to the bank was commodious : its rooms were 
large and handsome, though few in number. A pillared entrance, 
gained by steps, led into a small hall. On the right of this hall was 
the room used as a dining-room, a light and spacious apartment, its 
large window opening on to a covered terrace, where plants were kept ; 
and that again opened to a sloping lawn, surrounded with shrubs 
and flowers. This room was hung with fine old pictures, brought from 
Ashlydyat. Lady Godolphin did not care for pictures ; she preferred 
delicately-papered walls ; and very few of the Ashlydyat paintings had 
been removed to the Folly. On the left of the hall were the rooms 
belonging to the bank. At the back of the hall, beyond the dining- 
room, a handsome well-staircase led to the apartments above, one of 
which was a fine drawing-room. From the upper windows at the back 
of the house a view of Lady Godolphin's Folly might be obtained, 
rising high and picturesque ; also of the turret of Ashlydyat, grey and 
grim. Not of Ashlydyat itself' its surrounding trees concealed it. 

This dining-room, elegant and airy, and fitted up with exquisite 
taste, was the favourite sitting-room of the Miss Godolphins. The 
drawing-room above, larger and grander, less comfortable, and look- 
ing on to the High Street, was less used by them. In this lower room 
there sat one evening Thomas Godolphin and his eldest sister. It was 
about a month subsequent to that day, at the commencement of this 
history, when you saw the hounds throw off, and a week or ten days 
since Sir George Godolphin had been found insensible on the floor of 
his room at Broomhead. The attack had proved to be nothing but a 
prolonged fainting-fit ; but even that told upon Sir George in his 
shattered health. It had caused plans to be somewhat changed. 
Thomas Godolphin's visit to Scotland had been postponed, for Sir 
George was not strong enough for business consultations, which would 
have been the chief object of his journey; and George Godolphin had 
not yet returned to Prior's Ash. 



THE SHADOW. 



67 



Thomas and Miss Godolphin had been dining alone. Bessy was 
spending the evening at All Souls' Rectory : she and Mr. Hastings 
were active workers together in parish matters ; and Cecil was dining 
at Ashlydyat. Mrs. Verrall had called in the afternoon and carried 
her off. Dessert was on the table, but Thomas had turned from 
it, and was sitting over the fire. Miss Godolphin sat opposite to him, 
nearer the table, her fingers busy with her knitting, on which fell the 
rays of the chandeHer. They were discussing plans earnestly and 
gravely. 

" No, Thomas, it would not do," she was saying. " We must go. 
One of the partners always has resided here at the bank. Let business 
men be at their place of business." 

" But look at the trouble, Janet," remonstrated Thomas Godolphin. 

Consider the expense. You may be no sooner out than you may 
have to come back again." 

Janet turned her strangely-deep eyes on her brother. ''Do not 
make too sure of that, Thomas." 

"How do you mean, Janet? In my father's precarious state we 
cannot, unhappily, count upon his hfe." 

" Thomas, I am sure— I seem to see — that he will not be with us 
long. No : and I am contemplating the time when he shall have left 
us. It would change many things. Your home would then be Ash- 
lydyat." 

Thomas Godolphin smiled. As if any power would keep hitn from 
inhabiting Ashlydyat when he should be master. " Yes," he answered. 
" And George would come here." 

"There it is'" said Janet. "Would George live here? I do not 
feel sure that he would." 

" Of course he would, Janet. He would live here with you, as I do 
now. ■ That is a perfectly understood thing." 

" Does he so understand it? " 

" He understands it, and approves it." 

Janet shook her head. " George likes his liberty ; he will not be 
content to settle down to the ways of a sober household." 

" Nay, Janet, you must remember one thing. When George shall 
come to this house, he comes, so to say, as its master. He will not, 
of course, interfere with your arrangements ; he will fall in with them 
readily ; but neither will he, nor must he, be under your control. To 
attempt anything of the sort again would not do." 

Janet knitted on in silence. She had essayed to keep Master George 
in hand when they first came to the bank to live there : and the result 
was that he had chosen a separate home, where he could be entirely 
en garqon, 

" Eh me ! " sighed Janet. " If young men could but see the folly of 
their ways — as they see them in after-life ! " 

"Therefore, Janet, I say that it would be exceedingly inadvisable 
for you to quit the house," continued Thomas Godolphin, leaving her 
remark unnoticed. "It might be, that before you were well out of it, 
you must return to it." 

" I see the inconvenience also ; the uncertainty," she answered, 
" But there is no help for it." 



68 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Yes there is. Janet, I wish you would let me settle it." 

" How would you settle it? " 

" By bringing Ethel here. On a visit to you." 

Janet laid down her knitting. What do you mean? That there 
should be two mistresses in the house, she and I ? No, no, Thomas ; 
the daftest old wife in the parish would tell you that does not do." 

" Not two mistresses. You would be sole mistress, as you are now : 
I and Ethel your guests. Janet, indeed it would be the better plan. 
By the spring we should see how Sir George went on. If he improved, 
then the question could be definitively settled : and either you or I 
would take up our residence elsewhere. If he does not improve, I 
fear, Janet, that spring will have seen the end." 

Something in the words appeared particularly to excite Janet's atten- 
tion. She gazed at Thomas as if she would search him through and 
through. " By spring ! " she repeated. ^' When, then, do you con- 
template marrying Ethel?" 

^' I should like her to be mine by Christmas," was the low answer. 

^' Thomas ! And December close upon us ! " 

"If not, some time in January," he continued, paying no attention to 
her surprise. " It is so decided." 

Miss Godolphin drew a long breath. " With whom is it decided ? " 
" With Ethel." 

"You would marry a wife without a home to bring her to? Had 
thoughtless George told me that he was going to do such a thing, I 
could have believed it of him. Not of you, Thomas." 

" Janet, the home shall no longer be a barrier to us. I wish you would 
receive Ethel here as your guest." 

" It is not likely that she would come. The first thing a married 
woman looks for is to have a home of her own." 

Thomas smiled. " Not come, Janet? Have you yet to learn how 
unassuming and meek is the character of Ethel ? We have spoken of 
this plan together, and Ethel's only fear is, lest she should ^ be in Miss 
Godolphin's way.' Failing to carry out this project, Janet — for I see 
you are, as I thought you would be, prejudiced against it — I shall 
hire a lodging as near to the bank as may be, and there I shall take 
Ethel." 

"Would it be seemly that the heir of Ashlydyat should go into 
lodgings on his marriage ? " asked Janet, grief and sternness in her 
tone. 

" Things are seemly or unseemly, Janet, according to circumstances. 
It would be more seemly for the heir of Ashlydyat to take temporary 
lodgings vrhile waiting for Ashlydyat, than to turn his sisters from their 
home for a month, or a few months, as the case might be. The 
pleasantest plan would be for me to bring Ethel here : as your guest. 
It is what she and I should both like. If you object to this, I shall 
take her elsewhere. Bessy and Cecil would be delighted with the 
arrangement : they are fond of Ethel." 

" And when children begin to come, Thomas ? " cried Miss Godol- 
phin in her old-fashioned, steady, Scotch manner. She had a great 
deal of her mother about her. 

Thomas's lips parted with a quaint smile. " Things will be decided, 



THE SHADOW. 



69 



one way or the other, months before children shall have had time to 
arrive." 

Janet knitted a whole row before she spoke again. " I will take a 
few hours to reflect upon it, Thomas," she said then. 

"Do so," he replied, rising and glancii"ig at the timepiece. " Half- 
past seven! What time will Cecil expect me? I wish to spend half 
an hour with Ethel. Shall I go for Cecil before, or afterwards ? " 

" Go for Cecil at once, Thomas. It will be better for her to be home 
early." 

Thomas Godolphin went to the hall-door and looked out upon the 
night. He was considering whether he need put on an overcoat. It 
was a bright moonlight night, warm and genial. So he shut the door, 
and started. " I wish the cold would come ! " he exclaimed, half aloud. 
He was thinking of the fever, which still clung obstinately to Prior's 
Ash, showing itself fitfully and partially in fresh places about every 
third or fourth day. 

He took the foot-path, down Crosse Street : a lonely way, and at 
night especially unfrequented. In one part of it, as he ascended near 
Ashlydyat, the pathway was so narrow that two people could scarcely 
walk abreast without touching the ash-trees growing on either side and 
meeting overhead. A murder had been committed on this spot a few 
years before : a sad tale of barbarity, offered to a girl by one who pro- 
fessed to be her lover. She lay buried in All Souls' churchyard; and 
he within the walls of the county prison where he had been executed. 
Of course the rumour went that her ghost " walked " there, the natural 
sequence to these xiark tales ; and, what with that, and what with the 
loneliness of the place, few could be found in it after dark. 

Thomas Godolphin went steadily on, his thoughts running upon the 
subject of his conversation vv^ith Janet. It is probable that but for 
the difflculty touching a residence, Ethel would have been his in the past 
autumn. When anything should happen to Sir George, Thomas would 
be in possession of Ashlydyat three months afterwards ; such had been 
the agreement with Mr. Verrall when he took Ashlydyat. Not in his 
father's lifetime would Thomas Godolphin (clinging to the fancies and 
traditions which had descended with the old place) consent to take up 
his abode as master of Ashlydyat ; but no longer than was absolutely 
necessary would he remain out of it as soon as it was his own. George 
would then remove to the bank, which would still be his sister's home, 
as it was now. In the event of George's marrying, the Miss Godolphins 
would finally leave it : but George Godolphin did not, as far as people 
saw, give indications that he was likely to marry. In the precarious 
state of Sir George's health — and it was pretty sure he would soon 
either get better or worse — these changes might take place any day : 
therefore it was not desirable that the Miss Godolphins should leave 
the bank, and that the trouble and expense of setting up and furnishing 
a house for them should be incurred. Of course they could not go into 
lodgings. Altogether, if Janet could only be brought to see it, Thomas's 
plan was the best — that his young bride should be Janet's guest for a 
short time. 

It was through the upper part of this dark path, which was called the 
Ash-tree Walk, that George Godolphin had taken Maria Hastings, the 



76 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



night they had left Lady Godolphin's dinner-table to visit the Dark 
Plain. Thomas, in due course, arrived at the end of the walk, and 
passed through the turnstile. Lady Godolphin's Folly lay on the right, 
high and white and clear in the moonbeams. Ashlydyat lay to the 
left, dark and grey, and almost hidden by the trees. Grey as it was, 
Thomas looked at it fondly ; his heart yearned to it : and it was to be 
the future home of himself and Ethel ! 

Holloa! who's this ? Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr Godolphin ! " 

The speaker was Snow, the surgeon. He had come swiftly upon 
Thomas Godolphin, turning the corner round the ash-trees from the 
Dark Plain. That he had been to Ashlydyat was certain, for the road 
led nowhere else. Thomas did not know that illness was in the house. 

Neither did I," said Mr. Snow in answer to the remark, " until an 
hour ago, when I was sent for in haste." 

A thought crossed Thomas Godolphin. " Not a case of fever, I 
hope ! " 

" No. I think that's leaving us. There has been an accident at 
Ashlydyat to Mrs. Verrall. At least, what might have been an acci- 
dent, I should rather say," added the surgeon, correcting himself. The 
injury is so slight as not to be worth the name of one." 

" What has happened 1 " asked Thomas Godolphin. 
She managed to set her sleeve or\ fire : a white lace or muslin 
sleeve, falhng below the silk sleeve of her gown. In standing near a 
candle, the flame caught it. But now, look at that young woman's 
presence of mind ! Instead of wasting moments in screams, or running 
through the house from top to bottom, as most people would have 
done, she instantly threw herself down upon the rug, and rolled herself 
in it. That's the sort of woman to go through life." 

"Is she much burnt ? " 

"Pooh! Many a child gets a worse burn a dozen times in its first 
dozen years. The arm between the elbow and the wrist is shghtly 
scorched. It's nothing. They need not have sent for me. The appli- 
cation of a little cold water will take out all the fire. Your sister Cecilia 
was ten times more alarmed than Mrs. Verrall." 

" I am truly glad it is no worse ! " said Thomas Godolphin. " I feared 
fever might have found its way there." 

" That is taking its departure ; as I think. And, the sooner it goes, 
the better. It has been capricious as the smiles of a coquette. How 
strange it is, that not a soul, down by those Pollard pigsties, should 
have had it, except the Bonds 1 " 

" It is equally strange that, in many houses, it should have attacked 
only one inmate, and spared the rest. What do you think now of 
Sarah Anne Grame ? " 

Mr. Snow shook his head, and his voice grew insensibly low. " In 
my opinion she is sinking fast. I found her worse this afternoon ; 
weaker than she has been at all. Lady Sarah said, ^ If she could get 
her to Ventnor?' — ' If she could get her to Hastings?' But the removal 
would kill her : she'd die on the road. It will be a terrible blow to 
Lady Sarah, if it does come : and — though it may seem harsh to say it 
— a retort upon her selfishness. Did you know that they used to make 
Ethel head nurse, while the fever was upon her ? " 



THE SHADOW. 



71 



" No ! " exclaimed Thomas Godolphin. 

"They did, then. My lady inadvertently let it out to-day. Dear 
child ! If she had caught it, I should never have forgiven her mother, 
whatever you may have done. Good night. I have a dozen visits now 
to pay before bedtime." 

" Worse ! " soliloquized Thomas Godolphin, as he stepped on. " Poor, 
peevish Sarah Anne! But — I wonder," he hesitated as the thought 
struck him, "whether, if the worst should come, as Snow seems to 
anticipate, it would put off Ethel's marriage ? What with one delay 
and another " 

Thomas Godolphin's voice ceased, and his heart stood still. He had 
turned the corner, to the front of the ash-tree grove, and stretching 
out before him was the Dark Plain, with its weird-like bushes, so like 
graves, and — its Shadow^ lying cold and still in the white moonlight. 
Yes! there surely lay the Shadow of Ashlydyat. The grey archway 
rose behind it ; the flat plain extended out before it, and the Shadow 
was between them, all too distinctly visible. 

The first shock over, Thomas Godolphin's pulses coursed on again. 
He had seen that Shadow before in his lifetime, but he halted to gaze 
at it again. It was very palpable. The bier, as it looked in the middle, 
a mourner at the head, a mourner at the foot, each — as a spectator 
could fancy — with bowed heads. In spite of the superstition touching 
this strange Shadow in which Thomas Godolphin had been brought 
up, he looked round now for some natural explanation of it. He was 
a man of intellect, a man of the world, a man who played his full share 
in the practical business of everyday life : and such men are not given 
to acknowledging superstitious fancies in this age of enlightenment, no 
matter what bent may have been given to their minds in childhood. 

Therefore Thomas Godolphin ranged his eyes round and round in 
the air, and could see nothing that would solve the mystery. " I wonder 
whether it be possible that certain states of the atmosphere should give 
out these shadows ? he soliloquized. " But — if so — why should it in- 
variably appear in that one precise spot ; and in no other 1 Could Snow 
have seen it, I wonder ? " 

He walked on towards Ashlydyat, his head always turned, looking 
at the Shadow. " I am glad Janet does not see it ! It would frighten 
her into a belief that my father's end was near," came his next thought. 

Mrs. Verrall, playing the invalid, lay on a sofa, her auburn hair some- 
what ruffled, her pretty pink cheeks flushed, her satin slippers peeping 
out; altogether challenging admiration. The damaged arm, its silk 
sleeve pinned up, was stretched out on a cushion, a small delicate 
cambric handkerchief, saturated with water, resting lightly on the burn. 
A basin of water stood near, with a similar handkerchief lying in it, 
and Mrs. Verrall's maid was at hand to change the handkerchiefs as 
might be required. Thomas Godolphin drew a chair near to Mrs. 
Verrall, and listened to the account of the accident, giving her his full 
sympathy, for it might have been a bad one. 

" You must possess great presence of mind," he observed. " I think 
your showing it, as you have done in this instance, has won Mr. Snow's 
heart." 

Mrs. Verrall laughed. " I believe I do possess presence of mind. 



72 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



And so does Charlotte. Once we were out with some friends in a 
barouche, and the horses took fright, ran up a bank, turned the car- 
riage over, and nearly kicked it to pieces. While all those with us 
were fearfully frightened, Charlotte and I remained calm and cool." 
" It is a good thing for you," he observed. 

" I suppose it is. Better, at any rate, than to go mad with fear, as 
some do. Cecil " — turning to her — has had fright enough to last her 
for a twelvemonth, she says." 

" Were you present, Cecil ? " asked her brother, 

" I was present, but I did not see it," replied Cecil. " It occurred 
in Mrs. Verrall's bedroom, and I was standing at the dressing-table, 
with my back to her. The first thing I knew, or saw, was Mrs. Verrall 
on the floor with the rug rolled round her." 

Tea was brought in, and Mrs. Verrall insisted that they should 
remain for it. Thomas pleaded an engagement, but she would not 
listen : they could not have the heart, she said, to leave her alone. 
So Thomas — the very essence of good feeling and politeness — waived 
his objection and remained. Not the bowing politeness of a petit 
7naitre^ but the genuine consideration that springs from a noble and 
unselfish heart. 

" I am in ecstasy that Verrall was away," she exclaimed. "He 
would have magnified it into something formidable, and I should not 
have been allowed to stir for a month." 

" When do you expect him home ? " asked Thomas Godolphin. 
I never expect him until he comes," rephed Mrs. Verrall. " London 
seems to possess attractions for him. Once up there, he may stay a 
day, or he may stay fifty. I never know." 

Cecil went upstairs to put her things on when tea was over, the maid 
attending her. Mrs. Verrall turned to see that the door was closed, and 
then spoke abruptly. 

" Mr. Godolphin, can anything be done to prevent the wind whistling 
as it does in these passages ? " 

" Does it whistle t " he replied. 

"The last few nights it has whistled— oh, I cannot describe it to 
you ! If I were not a good sleeper, it would have kept me awake all 
night. I wish it could be stopped." 

" It cannot be done, I believe, without pulhng the house down," he 
said. " My mother had a great dislike to hear it, and a good deal of 
expense was incurred in trying to remedy it ; but it did httle or no good." 

"What puzzles me is, that the wind should have been whistling 
within the house, when there's no wind whistling without. The weather 
has been quite calm. Sometimes when it is actually blowing great 
guns we cannot hear it at all." 

" Something peculiar in the construction of the passages," he care- 
lessly remarked. "You hear the whistling or not, according to the 
quarter from which the wind may happen to be blowing." 

" The servants tell a tale — these old Ashlydyat retainers who remain 
in the house — that this strangely-sounding wind is connected with the 
Ashlydyat superstition, and foretells ill to the Godolphins." 

Thomas Godolphin smiled. " I am sure you do not give ear to any- 
thing so foolish, Mrs. Verrall." 



A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH. 



n 



No, that I do not," she answered. " It would take a great deal to 
imbue me with faith in the supernatural. Ghosts ! Shadows ! As if 
any one with common sense could believe in such impossibilities! 
They tell another tale about here, do they That a shadow of 

some sort may occasionally be seen in the moonbeams in front of the 
archway, on the Dark Plain ; a shadow cast by no earthly substance. 
Charlotte once declared she saw it. I only laughed at her ! " 

His hps parted as he hstened, and he lightly echoed the laugh said 
to have been given by Charlotte. Considering what his eyes had just 
seen, the laugh must have been a very conscious one. 

"When do you expect your brother home?" asked Mrs. Verrall. 
" He seems to be making a long stay at Broomhead." 

" George is not at Broomhead," replied Thomas Godolphin. "He 
left it three or four days ago. He has joined a party of friends in the 
Highlands. I do not suppose he will return here much before Christ- 
mas." 

Cecil appeared. They wished Mrs. Verrall good night, and a speedy 
cure to her burns ; and departed. Thomas took the open roadway 
this time, which did not bring them near to the ash-trees or the Dark 
Plain. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH. 

" Cecil," asked Thomas Godolphin, as they walked along, "how came 
you to go alone to Ashlydyat, in this unceremonious manner ? " 

" There was no harm in it," answered Cecil, who possessed a spice of 
self-will. " Mrs. Verrall said she was lonely, and it would be a charity 
if I or Bessy would go home with her. Bessy could not ; she was 
engaged at the Rectory. Where was the harm ? " 

" My dear, had there been ' harm,' I am sure you would not have 
wished to go. There was none. Only, I do not care that you should 
become very intimate with the Verralls. A httle visiting on either side 
cannot be avoided : but let it end there." 

" Thomas ! you are just like Janet ! " impulsively spoke Cecil. " She 
does not like the Verralls." 

"Neither do I. I do not like him. I do not like Charlotte 
Pain " 

" Janet again ! " struck in Cecil. " She and you must be constituted 
precisely alike, for you are sure to take up the same likes and disHkes. 
She would not willingly let me go to-day ; only she could not refuse 
without downright rudeness." 

" I like Mrs. Verrall the best of them, I was going to say," he continued. 
"Do not become too intimate with them, Cecil." 

" But you know nothing against Mr. Verrall ? " 

" Nothing whatever. Except that I cannot make him out." 

" How do you mean — ' make him out ? 

"Well, Cecil, it may be difficult to define my meaning. Verrall 



74 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



is so impassive ; so utterly silent with regard to himself. Who is he ? 
Where did he come from ? Did he drop from the moon ? Where 
has he previously lived ? What are his family ? Where does his 
property lie ? — in the funds, or in land, or in securities, or what ? 
Most men, even though they do come as strangers into a neighbour- 
hood, supply indications of some of these things, either accidentally 
or purposely." 

They have lived in London," said Cecil. 

" London is a wide term," answered Thomas Godolphin. 

"And I'm sure they have plenty of money." 

" There's where the chief puzzle is. When people possess so much 
money as Verrall appears to do, they generally make no secret of 
whence it is derived. Understand, my dear, I cast no suspicion on 
him in any way : I only say that we know nothing of him : or of the 
ladies either " 

" They are very charming ladies," interrupted Cecil again. " Espe- 
cially Mrs. Verrall." 

" Beyond the fact that they are very charming ladies," acquiesced 
Thomas in a tone that made Cecil think he was laughing at her : " you 
should let me finish, my dear. But I would prefer that they were rather 
more open, as to themselves, before they became the too-intimate friends 
of Miss Cecilia Godolphin." 

Cecil dropped the subject. She did not always agree with what she 
called Thomas's prejudices. " How quaint that old doctor of ours is ! " 
she exclaimed. " When he had looked at Mrs. Verrall's arm, he made 
a great parade of getting out his spectacles, and putting them on, and 
looking again. ' What d'ye call it — a burn ? ' he asked her. * It is a 
burn, is it not ? " she answered, looking at him. ^ No,' said he, ' it's 
nothing but a scorch.' It made her laugh so. I think she was pleased 
to have escaped with so little damage." 

" That is just like Snow," said Thomas Godolphin. 

Arrived at home. Miss Godolphin was in the same place, knitting 
still. It was turned half-past nine. Too late for Thomas to pay his 
visit to Lady Sarah's. " Janet, I fear you have waited tea for us ! " said 
Cecil. 

" To be sure, child. I expected you home to tea." 

Cecil explained why they did not come, relating the accident to 
Mrs. Verrall. " Eh ! but it's like the young ! " said Janet, Hfting 
her hands. " Careless ! careless ! She might have been burned to 
death." 

What a loud ring ! " exclaimed Cecil, as the hall-bell, pealed with 
no gentle hand, echoed and re-echoed through the house. " If it is 
Bessy come home, she thinks she will let us know who's there." 

It was not Bessy. A servant entered the room with a telegraphic 
despatch. The man is waiting, sir," he said, holding out the paper 
for signature to his master. 

Thomas Godolphin affixed his signature, and took up the despatch. 
It came from Scotland. Janet laid her hand upon it ere it was open : 
her face looked ghastly pale. " A moment of preparation ! " she said. 
" Thomas, it may have brought us tidings that we have no longer a 
father." 



A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH. 



75 



" Nay, Janet, do not anticipate evil," he answered, though his memory 
flew unaccountably to that ugly Shadow, and to what he had deemed 
would be Janet's conclusions respecting it. It may not be ill news 
at all." 

He glanced his eye rapidly and privately over it, while Cecil came 
and stood near him with a stifled sob. Then he held it out to Janet, 
reading it aloud at the same time. 

" ' Lady Godolphin to Thomas Godolphin, Esquire. 

" ' Come at once to Broomhead. Sir George wishes it. Take the first 
train.' " 

" He is not dead, at any rate, Janet," said Thomas quietly. " Thank 
Heaven." 

Janet, her extreme fears relieved, took refuge in displeasure. What 
does Lady Godolphin mean, by sending so vague a message as that ? " 
she uttered. " Is Sir George worse ? Is he ill? Is he in danger ? Or 
has the summons no reference at all to his state of health ? " 

Thomas had taken it into his hand again, and was studying the words : 
as we are all apt to do in uncertainty. He could make no more out of 
them. 

" Lady Godolphin should have been more explicit," he resumed. 

" Lady Godolphin has no ri^/i^ thus to play upon our fears, our 
suspense," said Janet. " Thomas, I have a great mind to start this very 
night for Scotland." 

As you please, of course, Janet. It is a long and fatiguing journey 
for a winter's night." 

"And I object to being a guest at Broomhead, unless driven to it, 
you might add," rejoined Janet. " But our father may be dying." 

" I should think not, Janet. Lady Godolphin would certainly have 
said so. Margery, too, would have taken care that those tidings should 
be sent to us." 

The suggestion reassured Miss Godolphin. She had not thought of 
it. Margery, devoted to the interests of Sir George and his children 
(somewhat in contravention to the interests of my lady), would un- 
doubtedly have apprised them were Sir George in danger. " What shall 
you do ? " inquired Janet of her brother. 

" I shall do as the despatch desires me — take the first train. That 
will be at midnight," he added, as he prepared to pay a visit to Lady 
Sarah's. 

Grame House, as you may remember, was situated at the opposite 
end of the town to Ashlydyat, past All Souls' Church. As Thomas 
Godolphin walked briskly along, he saw Mr. Hastings leaning over 
the Rectory gate, the dark trees shading him from the light of the 
moon. 

" You are going this way late," said the Rector. 
"It is late for a visit to Lady Sarah's. But I wish particularly to see 
them." 

" I have now come from thence," returned Mr. Hastings. 
" Sarah Anne grows weaker, I hear." 
"Ay. I have been praying over her." 

Thomas Godolphin felt shocked. " Is she so near death as that.^ " 
he asked, in a hushed tone. 



76 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"So near death as that ! " repeated the clergyman in an accent 
of reproof. " I did not expect to hear a Hke remark from Mr. 
Godolphin. My good friend, is it only when death is near that we 
are to pray ? " 

" It is chiefly when death is near that prayers are said overus^ replied 
Thomas Godolphin. 

" True — for those who have not known when and how to pray for 
themselves. Look at that girl : passing away from amongst us, with 
all her worldly thoughts, her selfish habits, her evil, peevish temper ! 
But that God's ways are not as our ways, we might be tempted to 
question why such as these are removed ; such as Ethel left. The one 
child as near akin to an angel as it is well possible to be, here ; the 

other In our blind judgment, we may wonder that she, most ripe 

for heaven, should not be taken to it, and that other one left, to be 
pruned and dug around; to have, in short, a chance given her of making 
herself better." 

"Is she so very ill ?" 

" I think her so ; as does Snow. It was what he said that sent me 
up there. Her frame of mind is not a desirable one ; and I have been 
trying to do my part. I shall be with her again to-morrow." 

" Have you any message for your daughter ? " asked Thomas 
Godolphin. " I start in two hours' time for Scotland." And then he 
explained why : telling of their uncertainty. 

" When shall you be coming back again 1 " inquired Mr. Hastings. 

" Within a week. Unless my father's state should forbid it. I may 
be wishing to take a holiday at Christmas time, or thereabouts, so shall 
not stay away now. George is absent, too." 

" Staying at Broomhead ? " 

" No ; he is not at Broomhead now." 

" Will you take charge of Maria ? We want her home." 

"If you wish it, I will. But I should think they would all be re- 
turning very shortly. Christmas is intended to be spent here." 

" You may depend upon it, Christmas will not see Lady Godolphin at 
Prior's Ash, unless the fever shall have departed to spend its Christmas 
in some other place," cried the Rector. 

" Well, I shall hear their plans when I get there." 

" Bring back Maria with you, Mr. Godolphin. Tell her it is my wish. 
Unless you find that there's a prospect of her speedy return with Lady 
Godolphin. In that case, you may leave her." 

" Very well," replied Thomas Godolphin. 

He continued his way, and Mr. Hastings looked after him in the bright 
moonlight, till his form disappeared in the shadows cast by the roadside 
trees. 

It was striking ten as Thomas Godolphin opened the iron gates 
at Lady Sarah Grame's : the heavy clock-bell of All Souls' came 
sounding upon his ear in the stillness of the night. The house, all 
except from one window, looked dark : even the hall-lamp was out, and 
he feared they might all have retired. From that window a dull light 
shone behind the blind : a stationary light it had been of late, to be 
seen by any nocturnal wayfarer all night long ; for it came from the 
sick-chamber. 



A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH. 



77 



Elizabeth opened the door. " Oh, sir ! she exclaimed in the surprise 
of seeing him so late, " I think Miss Ethel has gone up to bed." 

Lady Sarah came hastening down the stairs as he stepped into the 
hall : she also was surprised at the late visit. 

" I would not have disturbed you, but that I am about to leave for 
Broomhead,'* he explained. " A telegraphic despatch has arrived from 
Lady Godolphin, calHng me thither. I should like to see Ethel, if not 
inconvenient to her. I know not how long I may be away." 

" I sent Ethel to bed : her head ached," said Lady Sarah. " It is not 
many minutes since she went up. Oh, Mr. Godolphin, this has been 
such a day of grief ! heads and hearts alike aching." 

Thomas Godolphin entered the drawing-room, and Lady Sarah Grame 
called Ethel down, and then returned to her sick daughter's room. Ethel 
came instantly. The fire in the drawing-room was still alight, and 
Ehzabeth had been in to stir it up. Thomas Godolphin stood over it 
with Ethel, telling her of his coming journey and its cause. The red 
embers threw a glow upon her face ; her brow looked heavy, her eyes 
swollen. 

He saw the signs, and laid his hand fondly upon her head. " What 
has given you this headache, Ethel?" 

The ready tears came into her eyes. " It does ache very much," she 
answered. 

" Has crying caused it?" 

" Yes," she rephed. " It is of no use to deny it, for you would see 
it by my swollen eyelids. I have wept to-day until it seems that I can 
weep no longer, and it has made my eyes ache and my head dull and 
heavy." 

" But, my darling, you should not give way to this grief. It may 
render you seriously ill." 

"Oh, Thomas! how can I help it?" she returned, with emotion, as 
the tears dropped swiftly over her cheeks. " We begin to see that there 
is no chance of Sarah Anne's recovery. Mr. Snow told mamma so 
to-day : and he sent up Mr. Hastings." 

" Ethel, will your grieving alter it?" 

Ethel wept silently. There was full and entire confidence between 
her and Thomas Godolphin : she could speak out all her thoughts, her 
troubles to him, as she could have told them to a mother — if she had 
had a mother who loved her. 

" If she were only a little more prepared to go, the pain would seem 
less," breathed Ethel. " That is, we might feel more reconciled to los- 
ing her. But you know what she is, Thomas. When I have tried to 
talk a little bit about heaven, or to read a psalm to her, she would not 
listen : she said it made her dull, it gave her the horrors. How can she, 
who has never thought of God, be fit to meet Him ?" 

Ethel's tears were deepening into sobs. Thomas Godolphin in- 
voluntarily thought of what Mr. Hastings had just said to him. His 
hand still rested on Ethel's head. 

" You are fit to meet Him?" he exclaimed involuntarily. "Ethel, 
whence can have arisen the difference between you ? You are sisters ; 
reared in the same home." 

"I do not Hnow," said Ethel simply. "I have always thought a 



78 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



great deal about heaven ; I suppose it is that. A lady, whom we knew 
as children, used to buy us a good many story-books, and mine were 
always stories of heaven. It was that which first got me into the habit 
of thinking of it." 

"And why not Sarah Anne?" 

" Sarah Anne would not read them. She liked stories ot gaiety and 
excitement ; balls, and things like that." 

Thomas smiled; the words were so simple and natural. "Had the 
fiat gone forth for you, instead of for her, Ethel, it would have brought 
you no dismay ? " 

" Only that I must leave all my dear ones behind me," she answered, 
looking up at him, a bright smile shining through her tears. " I should 
know that God would not take me, unless it were for the best. Oh, 
Thomas ! if we could only save her ! " 

" Child, you contradict yourself. If what God does must be for the 
best — and it is — that thought should reconcile you to parting with 
Sarah Anne." 

" Y — es," hesitated Ethel. " Only I fear she has never thought of it 
herself, or in any way prepared for it." 

" Do you know that I have to find fault with you? " resumed Thomas 
Godolphin, after a pause. " You have not been true to me, Ethel." 

She turned her eyes upon him in surprise. 

" Did you not promise me — did you not promise Mr. Snow, not to 
enter your sister's chamber while the fever was upon her ? I hear that 
you were in it often : her head nurse." 

A hot colour flushed into Ethel's face. " Forgive me, Thomas," 
she whispered ; " I could not help myself. Sarah Anne — it was on the 
third morning of her illness, when I was getting up — suddenly began 
to cry out for me very much, and mamma came to my bedroom and 
desired me to go to her. I said that Mr. Snow had forbidden me, and 
that I had promised you. It made mamma angry. She asked if I 
could be so selfish as to regard a promise before Sarah Anne's life; 
that she might die if I thwarted her : and she took me by the arm and 
pulled me in. I would have told you, Thomas, that I had broken my 
word ; I wished to tell you ; but mamma forbade me to do so." 

Thomas Godolphin stood looking at her. There was nothing to 
answer : he had know7t^ in his deep and trusting love, that the fault 
had not lain with Ethel. She mistook his silence, thinking he was 
vexed. 

" You know, Thomas, so long as I am here in mamma's home, her 
child, it is to her that I owe obedience," she gently pleaded. " As soon 
as I shall be your wife, I shall owe it and give it implicitly to you." 

" You are right, my darling." 

" And it has produced no ill consequences," she resumed. " I did 
not catch the fever. Had I found myself growing in the least ill, I 
should have sent for you and told you the truth." 

"Ethel?" he impulsively cried — very impulsively for calm Thomas 
Godolphin ; " had you caught the fever, I should never have forgiven 
those who led you into danger. I could not lose you." 

" Hark ! " said Ethel. " Mamma is caUing." 

Lady Sarah had been calling to Mr. Godolphin. Thinking she was 



A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH. 



79 



not heard, she now came downstairs and entered the room, wringing 
her hands ; her eyes were overflowing, her sharp thin nose was redder 
than usual. " Oh dear ! I don't know what we shall do with her ! " she 
uttered. " She is so ill, and it makes her so fretful. Mr. Godolphin, 
nothing will satisfy her now but she must see you." 
" See me 1 " repeated he. 

" She will , she says. I told her you were departing for Scotland, and 
she burst out crying, and said if she were to die she should never see 
you again. Do you mind going in? You are not afraid?" 

" No, I am not afraid," said Thomas Godolphin. " Infection cannot 
have remained all this time. And if it had, I should not fear it." 

Lady Sarah Grame led the way upstairs. Thomas followed her. 
Ethel stole in afterwards. Sarah Anne lay in bed, her thin face, drawn 
and white, raised upon the pillow ; her hollow eyes were strained for- 
ward with a fixed look. Ill as he had been led to suppose her, he was 
scarcely prepared to see her like this ; and it shocked him. A cadave- 
rous face, looking ripe for the tomb. 

" Why have you never come to see me ? " she asked in her hollow 
voice, as he approached and leaned over her. " You'd never have come 
till I died. You only care for Ethel." 

" I would have come to see you had I known you wished it," he 
answered. " But you do not look strong enough to receive visitors." 

They might cure me, if they would," she continued, panting for 
breath. I want to go away somewhere, and that Snow won't let me. 
If it were Ethel, he would take care to cure ^^r." 

"He will let you go as soon as you are equal to it, I am sure," said 
Thomas Godolphin. 

" Why should the fever have come to me at all ? — Why couldn't it 
have gone to Ethel instead ? She's strong. She would have got well 
in no time. It's not fair " 

" My dear child, my dear, dear child, you must not excite yourself," 
implored Lady Sarah, abruptly interrupting her. 

" I shall speak," cried Sarah Anne, with a touch, feeble though it 
was, of her old peevish vehemence. " Nobody's thought of but Ethel. 
If you had had your way," looking hard at Mr. Godolphin, " she wouldn't 
have been allowed to come near me ; no, not if I had died." 

Her mood changed to tears. Lady Sarah whispered to him to leave 
the room : it would not do, this excitement. Thomas wondered why 
he had been brought to it. " I will come and see you again when you 
are better," he soothingly whispered. 

" No you won't," sobbed Sarah Anne. " You are going to Scotland, 
and I shall be dead when you come back. I don't want to die. 
Why do they frighten me with their prayers? Good-bye, Thomas 
Godolphin." 

The last words were called after him ; when he had taken his leave 
of her and was quitting the room. Lady Sarah attended him to the 
threshold : her eyes full, her hands hfted. " You may see that there's 
no hope of her ! " she wailed. 

Thomas did not think there was the slightest hope. To his eye — 
though it was not so practised an eye in sickness as Mr. Snow's, or 
even as that of the Rector of All Souls' — it appeared that in a very few 



So 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



days, perhaps hours, hope for Sarah Anne Grame would be over for 
ever. 

Ethel waited for him in the hall, and was leading the way back to 
the drawing-room; but he told her he could not stay longer, and 
opened the front door. She ran past him into the garden, putting her 
hand into his as he came out. 

" I wish you were not going away," she sadly said, her spirits, that 
night very unequal, causing her to see things with a gloomy eye. 

I wish you were going with me ! " replied Thomas Godolphin. "Do 
not weep, Ethel. I shall soon be back again." 

"Everything seems to make me weep to-night. You may not be 
back until — until the worst is over. Oh ! if she might but be saved ! " 

He held her face close to him, gazing down at it in the moonlight. 
And then he took from it his farewell kiss. " God bless you, my 
darling, for ever and for ever ! " 

" May He bless you, Thomas !" she answered, with streaming eyes : 
and, for the first time in her life, his kiss was returned. Then they 
parted. He watched Ethel indoors, and went back to Prior's Ash. 



CHAPTER XII. 

DEAD. 

" Thomas, my son, I must go home. I don't want to die away from 
Ashlydyat!" 

A dull pain shot across Thomas Godolphin's heart at the words. 
Did he think of the old superstitious tradition — that evil was to fall 
upon the Godolphins when their chief should die, and not at Ashlyd- 
yat ? At Ashlydyat his father could not die ; he had put that out oi 
his power when he let it to strangers : in its neighbourhood, he might. 

" The better plan, sir, will be for you to return to the Folly, as you 
seem to wish it," said Thomas. " You will soon be strong enough to 
undertake the journey." 

The decaying knight was sitting on a sofa in his bedroom. His 
second fainting-fit had lasted some hours — if that, indeed, was the 
right name to give to it — and he had recovered, only to be more and 
more weak. He had grown pretty well after the first attack — when 
Margery had found him in his chamber on the floor, the day Lady 
Godolphin had gone to pay her visit to Selina. The next time, he was 
on the lawn before the house, talking to Charlotte Pain, when he 
suddenly fell to the ground. He did not recover his consciousness 
until evening ; and nearly the first wish he expressed was a desire to 
see his son Thomas. " Telegraph for him," he said to Lady Godolphin. 

" But you are not seriously ill, Sir George," she had answered. 

" No ; but I should like him here. Telegraph to him to start by first 
train." 

And Lady Godolphin did so, accordingly, sending the message that 
angered Miss Godolphin. But, in this case, Lady Godolphin did not 
deserve so much blame as Janet cast on her : for she did debate the 



DEAD. 



8i 



point with herself whether she should say Sir George was ill, or not. 
Believing that these two fainting-fits had proceeded from want of 
strength only, that they were but the effect of his long previous illness, 
and would lead to no bad result, she determined not to speak of it. 
Hence the imperfect message. 

Neither did Thomas Godolphin see much cause for fear when he 
arrived at Broomhead. Sir George did not look better than when he 
had left Prior's Ash, but neither did he look much worse. On this, 
the second day, he had been well enough to converse with Thomas 
upon business affairs : and, that over, he suddenly broke out with the 
above wish. Thomas mentioned it when he joined Lady Godolphin 
afterwards. It did not meet with her approbation. 

"You should have opposed it," said she to him in a firm, hard 
tone. 

" But why so, madam ? " asked Thomas. " If my father's wish is to 
return to Prior's Ash, he should return." 

" Not while the fever lingers there. Were he to take it— and die— 
you would never forgive yourself." 

Thomas had no fear of the fever on his own score, and did not fear 
it for his father. He intimated as much. "It is not the fever that 
will hurt him. Lady Godolphin." 

" You have no right to say that. Lady Sarah Grame, a month ago, 
might have said she did not fear it for Sarah Anne. And now Sarah 
Anne is dying ! " 

" Or dead," put in Charlotte Pain, who was leaning listlessly against 
the window frame devoured with ennui. 

" Shall you be afraid to go back to Prior's Ash ? " he asked of Maria 
Hastings. 

" Not at all," rephed Maria. " I should not mind if I were going 
to-day, as far as the fever is concerned." 

" That is well," he said. " Because I have orders to convey you back 
with me." 

Charlotte Pain hfted her head with a start. The news aroused her. 
Maria, on the contrary, thought he was speaking in jest. 

" No, indeed I am not," said Thomas Godolphin. " Mr. Hastings 
made a request to me, madam, that I should take charge of his daughter 
when I returned," continued he to Lady Godolphin. "He wants her 
at home, he says.'' 

" Mr. Hastings is very polite ! " ironically replied my lady. " Maria 
will go back when I choose to spare her." 

" I hope you will allow her to return with me — unless you shall soon 
be returning yourself," said Thomas Godolphin. 

" It is not I that shall be returning to Prior's Ash yet," said my lady. 
" The sickly old place must give proof of renewed health first. You 
will not see either me or Sir George there on this side Christmas." 

" Then I think, Lady Godolphin, you must offer no objection to my 
taking charge of Maria," said Thomas courteously, but firmly, leaving 
the discussion of Sir George's return to another opportunity. " I passed 
my word to Mr. Hastings." 

Charlotte Pain, all animation now, approached Lady Godolphin. 
She was thoroughly sick and tired of Broomhead : since George Godol- 

Thc Shadow of Ashlydyat. 6 



82 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



phin's departure, she had been projecting how she could get away from 
it. Here was a solution to her difficulty. 

" Dear Lady Godolphin, you must allow me to depart with Mr. 
Godolphin — whatever you may do with Maria Hastings," she exclaimed. 
" I said nothing to you — for I really did not see how I was to get back, 
knowing you would not permit me to travel so far alone — but Mrs. 
Verrall is very urgent for my return. And now that she is suffering 
from this burn, as Mr. Godolphin has brought us news, it is the more 
incumbent upon me to be at home." 

Which was a nice little fib of Miss Charlotte's. Her sister had never 
once hinted that she wished her home again; but a fib or two more or 
less was nothing to Charlotte. 

You are tired of Broomhead," said Lady Godolphin. 

Charlotte's colour never varied, her eye never drooped, as she pro- 
tested that she should not tire of Broomhead were she its inmate for a 
twelvemonth; that it was quite a paradise upon earth. Maria kept 
her head bent while Charlotte said it, half afraid lest unscrupulous 
Charlotte should call upon her to bear testimony to her truth. Only 
that very morning she had protested to Maria that the ennui of the 
place was killing her. 

" I don't know," said Lady Godolphin shrewdly. " Unless I am 
wrong, Charlotte, you have been anxious to leave. What was it that 
Mr. George hinted at — about escorting you young ladies home — and I 
stopped him ere it was half spoken ? Prior's Ash would talk if I sent 
you home under his convoy." 

" Mr. Godolphin is not George," rejoined Charlotte. 

" No, he is not," replied my lady significantly. 

The subject of departure was settled amicably ; both the young 
ladies were to return to Prior's Ash under the charge of Mr. Godol- 
phin. There are some men, single men though they be, and not men 
in years, whom society is content to recognize as entirely fit escorts. 
Thomas Godolphin was one of them. Had my lady despatched the 
young ladies home under Mr. George's wing, she might never have 
heard the last of it from Prior's Ash : but the most inveterate scandal- 
monger in it would not have questioned the trustworthiness of his elder 
brother. My lady was also brought to give her consent to her own 
departure for it by Christmas, provided Mr. Snow would assure her' 
that the place was " safe." 

In a day or two Thomas Godolphin spoke to his father of his mar- 
riage arrangements. He had received a letter from Janet, written the 
morning after his departure, in which she agreed to the proposal that 
Ethel should be her temporary guest. This removed all barrier to the 
immediate union. 

" Then you marry directly, if Sarah Anne lives ? " 

" Directly. In January, at the latest." 

" God bless you both ! " cried the old knight. " She'll be a wife in a 
thousand, Thomas." 

Thomas thought she would. He did not say it. 

" It's the best plan ; it's the best plan," continued Sir George in a 
dreamy tone, gazing into the fire. No use to turn the girls out of 
their home. It will not be for long; not for long. Thomas" — turning 



DEAD. 



83 



his haggard, but still fine blue eye upon his son — " I wish I had never 
left Ashlydyat ! " 

Thomas was silent. None had more bitterly regretted the departure 
from it than he. 

" I wish I could go back to it to die ! " 

" My dear father, I hope that you will yet live many years to bless 
us. If you can get through this winter — and I see no reason whatever 
why you should not, with care — you may regain your strength and be 
as well again as any of us." 

Sir George shook his head. " It will not be, Thomas ; I shall not 
long keep you out of Ashlydyat. Mind ! " he added, turning upon 
Thomas with surprising energy, " I will go back before Christmas to 
Prior's Ash. The last Christmas that I see shall be spent with my 
children." 

" Yes, indeed, I think you should come back to us," warmly acquiesced 
Thomas. 

" Therefore, if you find, when Christmas is close upon us, that I am 
not amongst you, that you hear no tidings of my coming amongst you, 
you come off at once and fetch me. Do you hear, Thomas ? I enjoin 
it upon you now with a father's authority; do not forget it, or disobey 
it. My lady fears the fever, and would keep me here : but I must be at 
Prior's Ash." 

" I will certainly obey you, my father," replied Thomas Godolphin. 

Telegraphic despatches seemed to iDe the order of the day with 
Thomas Godolphin. They were all sitting together that evening, Sir 
George having come downstairs, when a servant called Thomas out of 
the room. A telegraphic message had arrived for him at the station, 
and a man had brought it over. A conviction of what it contained 
flashed over Thomas Godolphin's heart as he opened it — the death of 
Sarah Anne Grame. 

From Lady Sarah it proved to be. Not a much more satisfactory 
message than had been Lady Godolphin's ; for if hers had not been 
explanatory, this was incoherent. 

" The breath has just gone out of my dear child's body. I will write 
by next post. She died at four o'clock. How shall we all bear it ? " ^ 

Thomas returned to the room ; his mind full. In the midst of his 
sorrow and regret for Sarah Anne, his compassion for Lady Sarah — • 
and he did feel all that with true sympathy — intruded the thought of 
his own marriage. It must be postponed now. 

^ : " What did Andrew want with you ? " asked Sir George, when he 
entered. 

" A telegraphic message had come for me from Prior's Ash." 

" A business message ? " 

" No, sir. It is from Lady Sarah." 

By the tone of his voice, by the falHng of his countenance, they 
could read instinctively what had occurred. But they kept silence, all, 
— waiting for him to speak further. 

" Poor Sarah Anne is gone. She died at four o'clock." 

" This will delay your plans, Thomas," observed Sir George, after 
some mimites had been given to expressions of regret. 

" It will, sir." 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



The knight leaned over to his son, and spoke in a whisper, meant for 
his ear alone : " I shall not be very long after her. I feel that I shall 
not. You may yet take Ethel home at once to Ashlydyat." 

Very early indeed did they start in the morning, long before day- 
break. Prior's Ash they would reach, all things being well, at nine at 
night. Margery was sent to attend them, a very dragon of a guardian, 
as particular as Miss Godolphin herself — had a guardian been necessary, 

A somewhat weary day ; a long one, at any rate ; but at last their 
train steamed into the station at Prior's Ash. It was striking nine. 
Mr. Hastings was waiting for Maria, and Mrs. Verrall's carriage for 
Charlotte Pain. A few minutes were spent in collecting the luggage. 

" Shall I give you a seat as far as the bank, Mr. Godolphin? " inquired 
Charlotte, who must pass it on her way to Ashlydyat. 

" Thank you, no. I shall just go up for a minute's call upon Lady 
Sarah Grame." 

Mr. Hastings, who had been placing Maria in a fly, heard the 
words. He turned hastily, caught Thomas Godolphin's hand, and 
drew him aside. 

" Are you aware of what has occurred ? " 

" Alas, yes ! " replied Thomas. " Lady Sarah telegraphed to me last 
night." 

The Rector pressed his hand, and returned to his daughter. Thomas 
Godolphin struck into a by-path, a short cut from the station, which 
would take him to Grame House. 

Six days ago, exactly, since he had been there before. The house 
looked precisely as it had looked then, all in darkness, excepting the 
faint light that burned from Sarah Anne's chamber. It burnt there 
still. Then it was lighting the living ; now 

Thomas Godolphin rang the bell gently. — Does any one like to do 
otherwise at a house in which death is an inmate ? Elizabeth, as usual, 
opened the door, and burst into tears when she saw who it was. " I 
said it would bring you back, sir ! " she exclaimed. 

^ " Does Lady Sarah bear it pretty well ? " he asked, as she showed 
him into the drawing-room. 

" No, sir, not over well," sobbed the girl. " I'll tell my lady that you 
are here." 

He stood over the fire, as he had done the other night : it was low 
now, as it had been then. Strangely still seemed the house : he could 
almost have told that one was lying dead in it. He listened, waiting 
for Ethel's step, hoping she would be the first to come to him. 

Elizabeth returned. " My lady says would you be so good as to walk 
up to her, sir ? " 

Thomas Godolphin followed her upstairs. She made for the room 
to which he had been taken the former night — Sarah Anne's chamber. 
In point of fact, the chamber of Lady Sarah, until it was given up to 
Sarah Anne for her illness. EHzabeth, with soft and stealthy tread, 
crossed the corridor to the door, and opened it. 

Was she going to show him into the presence of the dead ? He 
thought she must have mistaken Lady Sarah's orders, and he hesitated 
on the threshold. 

" Where is Miss Ethel ? " he whispered. 



UNAVAILING REGRETS, 



"Who, sir? 

"Miss Ethel. Is she well?" 

The girl stared, flung the door full open, and with a great cry flew 
down the staircase. 

He looked after her in amazement. Had she gone crazy ? Then he 
turned and walked into the room with a hesitating step. 

Lady Sarah was coming forward to meet him. She was convulsed 
with grief. He took both her hands in his with a soothing gesture, 
essaying a word of comfort : not of inquiry, as to why she should have 
brought him to this room. He glanced to the bed, expecting to see 
the dead upon it. But the bed was empty. And at that moment, his - 
eyes caught something else. 

Seated by the fire in an invalid chair, surrounded with pillows, 
covered with shawls, with a wan, attenuated face, and eyes that seemed 
to have a glaze over them, was — who 

Sarah Anne ? It certainly was Sai^h Anne, and in life still. For 
she feebly held out her hand in welcome, and the tears suddenly gushed 
from her eyes. " I am getting better, Mr. Godolphin." 

Thomas Godolphin — Thomas Godolphin — how shall I write it ? For 
one happy minute he was utterly blind to what it could all mean : his 
whole mind was a chaos of wild perplexity. And then, as the dread- 
ful truth burst upon him, he staggered against the wall, with a wailing 
cry of agony. 

It was Ethel who had died. 



CHAPTER Xin. 

UNAVAILING REGRETS. 

Yes. It was Ethel who had died. 

Thomas Godolphin leaned against the wall in his agony. It was 
one of those moments that can fall only once in a lifetime ; in many 
lives never ; when the greatest limit of earthly misery bursts upon the 
startled spirit, shattering it for all time. Were Thomas Godolphin to 
live for a hundred years, he never could know another moment like 
this : the power so to feel would have left him. 

It had not left him yet. Nay, it had scarcely come to him in its full 
realization. At present he was half stunned. Strange as it may seem, 
the first impression upon his mind, was— that he was so much nearer 
to the next world. How am I to define this " nearer ? " It was not 
that he was nearer to it by time ; or in goodness : nothing of that sort. 
She had passed within its portals ; and the great gulf, which divides 
time from eternity, seems to be only a span now to Thomas Godolphin : 
it was as if he, in spirit, had followed her in. From being a place far, 
far off, vague, indefinite, indistinct, it had been suddenly brought to 
him, close and palpable : or he to it. Had Thomas Godolphin been 
an atheist, denying a hereafter, — Heaven in its compassion have mercy 
upon all such ! — that one moment of suffering would have recalled him 
to a sense of his mistake. It was as if he looked above with the eye 



86 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



of inspiration and saw the truth ; it was as a brief, passing moment of 
revelation from God. She, with her loving spirit, her gentle heart, her 
simple trust in God, had been taken from this world to enter upon a 
better. She was as surely living in it, had entered upon its mysteries, 
its joys, its rest, as that he was living here ; she, he beheved, was as 
surely regarding him now and his great sorrow, as that he was left 
alone to battle with it. From henceforth Thomas Godolphin possessed 
a lively, ever-present link with that world ; and knew that its gates 
would, in God's good time, be opened for him. 

These feelings, impressions, facts — you may designate them as you 
please — took up their place in his mind all in that first instant, and 
seated themselves there for ever. Not yet very consciously. To his 
stunned senses, in his weight of bitter grief, nothing could be to him 
very clear : ideas passed through his brain quickly, confusedly ; as" the 
changing scenes in a phantasmagoria. He looked round as one 
bewildered. The bed, prepared for occupancy, on which, on entering, 
he had expected to see the dead, but not her^ was between him and the 
door. Sarah Anne Grame in her invahd chair by the fire, a table at 
her right hand, covered with adjuncts of the sick-room— a medicine- 
bottle with its accompanying wine-glass and tablespoon • jelly, and 
other delicacies to tempt a faded appetite — Sarah Anne sat there and 
gazed at him with her dark hollow eyes, from which the tears rolled 
slowly over her cadaverous cheeks. Lady Sarah stood before him ; 
sobs choking her voice as she wrung her hands. Ay, both were 
weeping. But he — —it is not in the presence of others that man gives 
way to grief: neither will tears come to him in the first leaden weight 
of anguish. 

Thomas Godolphin listened mechanically, as one who cannot do 
otherwise, to the explanations of Lady Sarah. "Why did you not 
prepare me? — why did you let it come upon me with this startling 
shock?" was his first remonstrance. 

" I did prepare you," sobbed Lady Sarah. " I telegraphed to you 
last night, as soon as it had happened. I wrote the message with my 
own hand, and sent it off to the office before I turned my attention to 
any other thing." 

" I received the message. But you did not say — I thought it was," 
— Thomas Godolphin turned his glance on Sarah Anne. He remem- 
bered her state, in the midst of his own anguish, and would not alarm 
her. " You did not mention Ethel's name," he continued to Lady 
Sarah. " How could I suppose you alluded to her ? How could I 
suppose that she was ill? " 

Sarah Anne divined his motive for hesitation. She was uncommonly 
keen in penetration : sharp, as the world says ; and she had noted his 
words on entering, when he began to soothe Lady Sarah for the loss of 
a child ; she had noticed his startled recoil, when his eyes fell on her. 
She spoke up with a touch of her old querulousness, the tears arrested, 
and her eyes glistening. 

" You thought it was I who had died ! Yes, you did, Mr. Godol- 
phin, and you need not attempt to deny it. You would not have cared, 
so that it was not Ethel." 

Thomas Godolphin had no intention of contradicting her. He 



UNAVAILING REGRETS, 



87 



turned from Sarah Anne in silence, to look inquiringly and reproach- 
fully at her mother. 

" Mr. Godolphin, I could not prepare you better than I did," 
said Lady Sarah. *'When I wrote the letter to you, telHng of her 
illness " 

"What letter?" interrupted Thomas Godolphin. "I received no 
letter." 

" But you must have received it," returned Lady Sarah in her 
quick, cross manner. Not cross with Thomas Godolphin, but from a 
rising doubt whether the letter had miscarried. " I wrote it, and I 
know that it was safely posted. You ought to have had it by last 
evening's delivery, before you would receive the telegraphic despatch." 

" I never had it," said Thomas Godolphin. " When I waited in 
your drawing-room now, I was hstening for Ethel's footsteps to come 
to me." 

Thomas Godolphin knew, later, that the letter had arrived duly and 
safely at Broomhead, at the time mentioned by Lady Sarah. Sir 
George Godolphin either did not open the box that night ; or, if he 
opened it, had overlooked the letter for his son. Charlotte Pain's 
complaint, that the box ought not to be left to the charge of Sir 
George, had reason in it. On the morning of his son's departure with 
the young ladies. Sir George had found the letter, and at once de- 
spatched it back to Prior's Ash. It was on its road at this same hour 
when he was talking with Lady Sarah. But the shock had come. 

He took a seat by the table, and covered his eyes with his hand as 
Lady Sarah gave him a detailed account of the illness and death. Not 
all the account, that she or any one else could give, would take one 
iota from the dreadful fact staring him in the face. She was gone ; 
gone for ever from this world ; he could never again meet the glance 
of her eye, or hear her voice in response to his own. Ah, my readers, 
there are griefs that change all our after-life ! rending the heart as 
an earthquake will rend the earth : and, all that can be done is, to sit 
down under them, and ask of Heaven strength to bear them. To bear 
them as we best may, until time shall in a measure bring healing 
upon its wings. 

On the last night that Thomas Godolphin had seen her, Ethel's brow 
and eyes were heavy. She had wept much in the day, and supposed 
the pain in her head to arise from that circumstance ; she had given 
this explanation to Thomas Godolphin. Neither she, nor he, had had 
a thought that it could come from any other source. More than a 
month since Sarah Anne was taken with the fever ; fears for Ethel 
had died out. And yet those dull eyes, that hot head, that heavy 
weight of pain, were only the symptoms of approaching sickness ! 
A night of tossing and turning, snatches of disturbed sleep, of terrify- 
ing dreams, and Ethel awoke to the conviction that the fever was 
upon her. About the time that she generally rose, she rang her bell 
for Ehzabeth. 

" I do not feel well," she said. " As soon as mamma is up, will you 
ask her to come to me ? Do not disturb her before then." 

Elizabeth obeyed her orders. But Lady Sarah, tired and wearied 
out with her attendance upon Sarah Anne, with whom she had been 



88 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



up half the night, did not rise until between nine and ten. Then the 
maid went to her and delivered the message. 

"In bed still! Miss Ethel in bed still!" exclaimed Lady Sarah. 
She spoke in much anger: for Ethel was wont to be up betimes and in 
attendance upon Sarah Anne. It was required of her to be so. 

Throwing on a dressing-gown, Lady Sarah proceeded to Ethel's 
room. And there she broke into a storm of reproach and anger ; never 
waiting to ascertain what might be the matter with Ethel, anything or 
nothing. " Ten o'clock, and that poor child to have lain until now 
with no one near her but a servant ! " she reiterated, " You have no 
feeling, Ethel." 

Ethel drew the clothes from her flushed face, and turned her glisten- 
ing eyes, dull last night, bright with fever now, upon her mother. 
" Oh, mamma, I am ill, indeed I am ! I can hardly hft my head 
for the pain. Feel how it is burning! I did not think I ought to 
get up." 

" What is the matter with you?" sharply inquired Lady Sarah. 
' " I cannot quite tell," answered Ethel. " I only know that I feel ill 
all over. I feel, mamma, as if I could not get up." 

" Very well ! There's that dear suffering angel lying alone, and you 
can think of yourself before you think of her ! If you choose to remain 
in bed you must. But you will reproach yourself for your selfishness 
when she is gone. Another four and twenty hours and she may be 
no longer with us. Do as you think proper." 

Ethel burst into tears, and caught her mother's robe as she was 
turning away. " Mamma, do not be angry with me ! I trust I am 
not selfish. Mamma" — and her voice sank to a whisper — "I have 
been thinking that it may be the fever." 

The fever! For one moment Lady Sarah paused in consternation, 
but the next she decided there was no fear of it. She really believed so. 

" The fever ! " she reproachfully said. " Heaven help you for a 
selfish and a fanciful child, Ethel ! Did I not send you to bed with 
headache last night, and what is it but the remains of that headache 
that you feel this morning ? I can see what it is ; you have been 
fretting after this departure of Thomas Godolphin ! Get up and dress 
yourself, and come in and attend upon your sister. You know she 
can't bear to be waited on by any one but you. Get up, I say, 
Ethel." 

Will Lady Sarah Grame remember that little episode until death 
shall take her 1 I should, in her place. She suppressed all mention 
of it to Thomas Godolphin. " The dear child told me she did not feel 
well, but I only thought she had a headache, and that she would 
perhaps feel better up," were the words in which she related it to him. 
What sort of a vulture was gnawing at her heart as she spoke them? 
It was true that, in her blind selfishness for that one undeserving child, 
she had lost sight of the fact that illness could come to Ethel ; she had 
not allowed herself to entertain its probability ; she, who had accused 
of selfishness that devoted, generous girl, who was ready at all hours 
to sacrifice herself to her sister ; who would have sacrificed her very 
life to save Sarah Anne's. 

Ethel got up. Got up as §he be§t could ; her limb? achjng, Jigr he^cl 



UNAVAILING REGRETS. 



89 



burning. She went into Sarah Anne's room, and did for her what she 
was able, gently, lovingly, anxiously, as of yore. Ah, child ! let those, 
who are left, be thankful that it was so : it is well to be stricken down 
in the path of duty, working until we can work no more. 

She did so. She stayed where she was until the day was half gone ; 
bearing up, it was hard to say how. She could not touch breakfast ; 
she could not take anything. None saw how ill she was. Lady Sarah 
was wilfully blind ; Sarah Anne had eyes and thoughts for herself 
alone. " What are you shivering for ? " Sarah Anne once fretfully 
asked her. " I feel cold, dear," was Ethel's unselfish answer : not a 
word said she further of her illness. In the early part of the afternoon. 
Lady Sarah was away from the room for some time upon domestic 
affairs ; and when she returned to it Mr. Snow was with her. He had 
been prevented from calling earlier in the day. They found that Sarah 
Anne had dropped into a doze, and Ethel was stretched on the floor 
before the fire, moaning. But the moans ceased as they entered. 

Mr. Snow, regardless of waking the invalid, strode up to Ethel, and 
turned her face to the hght. How long has she been like this ? " he 
cried out, his voice shrill with emotion. " Child ! child ! why did they 
not send for me ? " 

Alas ! poor Ethel was, even then, growing too ill to reply. Mr. 
Snow carried her to her room with his own arms, and the servants 
undressed her and laid her in the bed from which she was never more 
to rise. The fever attacked her violently : but not more so than it had 
attacked Sarah Anne ; scarcely as badly ; and danger, for Ethel, was 
not imagined. Had Sarah Anne not got over a similar crisis, they 
would have feared for Ethel : so are we given to judge by collateral 
circumstances. It was only on the third or fourth day that highly 
dangerous symptoms declared themselves, and then Lady Sarah wrote 
to Thomas Godolphin the letter which had not reached him. There 
was this much of negative consolation to be derived from its mis- 
carriage : that, had it been delivered to him on the instant of its 
arrival, he could not have been in time to see her. 

" You ought to have written to me as soon as she was taken ill," he 
observed to Lady Sarah. 

" I would have done so had I apprehended danger," she repentantly 
answered. " But I never did apprehend it. Mr. Snow did not do so. 
I thought how pleasant it would be to get her safe through the danger 
and the illness, before you should know of it." 

" Did she not wish me to be written to 1 " 

The question was put firmly, abruptly, after the manner of one who 
will not be cheated of his answer. Lady Sarah dared not evade it. How 
could she equivocate, with her child lying dead in the house. 

" It is true. She did wish it. It was on the first day of her illness 
that she spoke. * Write, and tell Thomas Godolphin.' She never said 
it but that once." 

"And you did not do so?" he returned, his voice hoarse with 
pain. 

"Do not reproach me ! do not reproach me ! " cried Lady Sarah, 
clasping her hands in supplication, while the tears fell in showers from 
b§r eyes, " I did it for the best. I never supposed there was danger ; 



go 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



1 thought what a pity it was to bring you back, all that long journey : 
putting you to so much unnecessary trouble and expense." 

Trouble and expense, in such a case ! She could speak of expense 
to Thomas Godolphin ! But he remembered how she had had to battle 
both with expense and trouble her whole life long ; that for her these 
must wear a formidable aspect : and he remained silent. 

" I wish now I had written," she resumed, in the midst of her choking 
sobs. As soon as Mr. Snow said there was danger, I wished it. But " 
— as if she would seek to excuse herself — " wh^it with the two upon my 
hands, she upstairs, Sarah Anne here, I had not a moment for proper 
reflection." 

" Did you tell her you had not written ? " he asked, " Or did you let 
her lie waiting for me, hour after hour, day after day, blaming me for 
my carelcos neglect ? " 

" She never blamed any one ; you know she did not," wailed Lady 
Sarah : " and I beheve she was too ill to think even of you. She was 
only sensible at times. Oh, I say, do not reproach me, Mr. Godolphin ! 
I would give my own life to bring her back again ! I never knew her 
worth until she was gone. I never loved her as I love her now." 

There could be no doubt that Lady Sarah Grame was reproaching 
herself far more bitterly than any reproach could tell upon her from 
Thomas Godolphin. An accusing conscience is the worst of all evils. 
She sat there, her head bent, swaying herself backwards and forwards 
on her chair, moaning and crying. It was not a time, as Thomas 
Godolphin felt, to say a word of her past heartless conduct, in forcing 
Ethel to breathe the infection of Sarah Anne's sick-room. And, all 
that he could say, all the reproaches, all the remorse and repentance, 
would not bring Ethel back to life. 

^' Would you hke to see her?" whispered Lady Sarah, as he rose to 
leave. 

" Yes." 

She lighted a candle, and preceded him upstairs. Ethel had died in 
her own room. At the door, Thomas Godolphin took the candle from 
Lady Sarah. 

" I must go in alone." 

He passed on into the chamber, and closed the door. On the bed, 
laid out in her white night-dress, lay what remained of Ethel Grame. 
Pale, still, pure, her face was wonderfully like what it had been in life, 
and a calm smile rested upon it. — But Thomas Godolphin wished to 
be alone. 

Lady Sarah stood outside, leaning against the opposite wall, and 
weeping silently, the glimmer from the hall-lamp below faintly light- 
ing the corridor. Once she fancied that a sound, as of choking sobs, 
struck upon her ears, and she caught up a small black shawl that she 
wore, for grief had chilled her, flung it over her shoulders, and wept 
the faster. 

He came out by-and-by, calm and quiet as he ever was. He did not 
perceive Lady Sarah standing there in the shade, and went straight 
down, the wax-light in his hand. Lady Sarah caught him up at the 
door of Sarah Anne's room, and took the light from him. 

" She looks very peaceful, does she not ? " was her whisper. 



GONE ON BEFORE. 



91 



She could not look otherwise." 

He went on down alone, wishing to let himself out. But Elizabeth 
had heard his steps, and was already at the door. " Good night, 
EHzabeth," he said, as he passed her. 

The girl did not answer. She shpped out into the garden after him. 
" Oh, sir ! and didn't you know of it ? " she whispered. 

" No." 

" If anybody was ever gone away to be an angel, sir, it's that sweet 
young lady," continued Elizabeth, letting her tears and sobs come forth 
as they would. " She was just one here ! and she's gone to her own 
fit place above." 

" Ay. It is so." 

" You should have been in this house throughout the whole of the 
illness, to have see the difference between them, sir ! Nobody would 
beheve it. Miss Grame, angry and snappish, and not caring who 
suffered, or who was ill, or who toiled, so that she was served : Miss 
Ethel, lying like a tender lamb, patient and meek, thankful for all that 
was done for her. It does seem hard, sir, that we should lose her for 
ever." 

" Not for ever, Elizabeth," he answered. 

" And that's true, too ! But, sir, the worst is, one can't think of that 
sort of consolation just when one's troubles are fresh. Good night to 
you, sir." 

" No, no," he murmured to himself ; " not for ever." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

GONE ON BEFORE. 

Thomas Godolphin walked on, leaving the high-road for a less- 
frequented path, the one by which he had come. About midway 
between this and the railway station, a path, branching to the right, 
would take him into Prior's Ash. He went along, musing. In the 
depth of his great grief, there was no repining. He was one to trace 
the finger of God in all things. If Mrs. Godolphin had imbued him 
with superstitious feelings, she had also implanted within him some- 
thing better : and a more entire trust in God it was perhaps impossible 
for any one to feel, than was felt by Thomas Godolphin. It was what 
he lived under. He could not see why Ethel should have been taken; 
why this great sorrow should fall upon him ; but that it must be for 
the best, he implicitly believed. The best: for God had done it. How 
he was to live on without her, he knew not. How he could support 
the Hvely anguish of the immediate future, he did not care to think 
about. All his hope in this life gone! all his plans, his projects, 
uprooted by a single blow ! never, any of them, to return. He might 
still look for the bliss of a hereafter — ay ! that remains even for the 
most heavy-laden, thank God ! — but his sun of happiness in this world 
had set for ever. 

Thomas Godolphin might have been all the better for a little sun 



92 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



then — not speaking figuratively. I mean the good sun that illumines 
our daily world ; that would be illumining my pen and paper at this 
moment, but for an envious fog, which obscures everything but itself. 
The moon was not shining as it had shone the last night he left Lady 
Sarah's, when he had left his farewell kiss — oh that he could have 
known it was the last ! — on the gentle lips of Ethel. There was no 
moon yet ; the stars were not showing themselves, for a black cloud 
enveloped the skies like a pall, fitting accompaniment to his blasted 
hopes; and his path altogether was dark. Little wonder then, that 
Thomas Godolphin all but fell over some dark object, crouching in his 
way: he could only save himself by springing back. By dint of 
peering, he discovered it to be a woman. She was seated on the bare 
earth ; her hands clasped under her knees, which were raised almost 
level with her chin which rested on them, and was swaying herself 
backwards and forwards as one does in grief ; as Lady Sarah Grame 
had done not long before. 

" Why do you sit here ? " cried Thomas Godolphin. I nearly fell 
over you." 

" Little matter if ye'd fell over me and killed me," was the woman's 
response, given without raising her head, or making any change in 
her position. "'T would only have been one less in an awful cold world, 
as seems made for nothing but trouble. If the one half of us was out 
of it, there'd be room perhaps for them as was left." 

"Is it Mrs. Bond?" asked Thomas Godolphin, as he caught a 
glimpse of her features. 

" Didn't you know me, sir ? I know'd you by the voice as soon as 
you spoke. You have got trouble too, I hear. The world's full of 
nothing else. Why does it come ? " 

" Get up," said Thomas Godolphin. " Why do you sit there ? Why 
are you here at all at this hour of the night ? " 

"It's where I'm going to stop till morning," returned the woman, 
sullenly. " There shall be no getting up for me." 

" What is the matter with you ? " he resumed. 

"Trouble," she shortly answered. "I've been toiling up to the 
work'us, asking for a loaf, or a bit o' money : anything they'd give to 
me, just to keep body and soul together for my children. They turned 
me back again. They'll give me nothing. I may go into the union 
with the children if I will, but not a stiver of help'U they afford me out 
of it. Me, with a corpse in the house, and a bare cubbort." 

" A corpse ! " involuntarily repeated Thomas Godolphin. " Who is 
dead ! " 

"John." 

Curtly as the word was spoken, the tone yet betrayed its own pain. 
This John, the eldest son of the Bonds, had been attacked with the 
fever at the same time as the father and brother. They had suc- 
cumbed to it : this one had recovered : or, at least, had appeared to be 
recovering. 

" I thought John was getting better," observed Thomas Godolphin. 

" He might ha' got better, if he'd had things to make him better ! 
Wine and m^at, and all the rest of it. He hadn't got 'em: and he's 
dead." 



GONE ON BEFORE. 



93 



Now a subscription had been entered into for the rehef of the poor 
sufferers from the fever, Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin having 
been amongst its most liberal contributors; and to Thomas Godol- 
phin's certain knowledge, a full share, and a very good share, had been 
handed to the Bonds. Quite sufficient to furnish proper nourishment 
for John Bond for some tmie to come. He did not say to the woman, 
" You have had enough : where has it gone to ? it has been wasted in 
riot." That it had been wasted in riot and improvidence, there was 
no doubt, for it was in the nature of the Bonds so to waste it ; but to 
cast reproach in the hour of affliction was not the rehgion of everyday 
life practised by Thomas Godolphin. 

" Yes, they turned me back," she resumed, swaying herself nose and 
knees together, as before. " They wouldn't give me as much as a bit 
o' bread. I wasn't going home without taking something to my 
famished children ; and I wasn't going to beg like a common tramp. 
So I just sat myself down here; and I shan't care if I'm found stark 
and stift'in the morning! " 

" Get up, get up," said Thomas Godolphin. " I will give you some- 
thing for bread for your children to-night." 

In the midst of his own sorrow he could feel for her, improvident 
old smner though she was, and though he knew her to be so. He 
coaxed and soothed, and finally prevailed upon her to rise, but she 
was in a reckless, sullen mood, and it took him a little effort before it 
was effected. She burst into tears when she thanked him, and turned 
off in the direction of the Pollard cottages. 

The reflection of Mr. Snow's bald head was conspicuous on the 
surgery blmd : he was standing between the window and the lamp. 
Thomas Godolphin observed it as he passed. He turned to the surgery 
door, which was at the side of the house, opened it, and saw that Mr. 
Snow was alone. 

The surgeon turned his head at the interruption, put down a glass 
jar which he held, and grasped his visitor's hand in silence. 
" Snow ! why did you not write for me ? " 

Mr. Snow brought down his hand on a pair of tiny scales, causing 
them to jangle and rattle. He had been bottling up his anger against 
Lady Sarah for some days now, and this was his first explosion. 

" Because I understood that she had done so. I was present when 
that poor child asked her to do it. I found her on the floor in Sarah 
Anne's chamber. On the floor, if you'll believe me! Lying there, 
because she could not hold her aching head up. My lady had dragged 
her out of bed in the morning, ill as she was, and forced her to attend 
as usual upon Sarah Anne. I got it all out of Elizabeth. ^ Mamma,' 
she said, when I pronounced it to be fever, though she was almost 
beyond speaking then, * you will write to Thomas Godolphin.* I never 
supposed but that my lady did it. Your sister. Miss Godolphin, in- 
quired if you had been written for, and I told her yes." 

" Snow," came the next sad words, " could you not have saved her ? " 

The surgeon shook his head and answered in a quiet tone, looking 
down at the stopper of a phial, which he had taken up and was turn- 
ing about hstlessly in his'fingers. 

" Neither care nor skill could save her. I gave her the best I had to 



94 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



give. As did Dr. Beale. Godolphin," — -raising his quick dark eyes, 
flashing then with a pecuHar hght — " she was ready to go. Let it be 
your consolation." 

Thomas Godolphin made no answer, and there was silence for a time. 
Mr. Snow resumed. " As to my lady, the best consolation I wish her, 
is, that she may have her heart wrung with remembrance for years to 
come ! I don't care what people may preach about charity and for- 
giveness ; I do wish it. But she'll be brought to her senses, unless I 
am mistaken : she has lost her treasure and kept her bane. A year or 
two more, and that's what Sarah Anne will be." 

" She ought to have written for me." 

^' She ought to do many things that she does not do. She ought to 
have sent Ethel from the house, as I told her, the instant the disorder 
appeared in it. Not she. She kept her in her insane selfishness : and 
now I hope she's satisfied with her work. When alarming symptoms 
showed themselves in Ethel, on the fourth day of her illness, I think it 
was, I said to my lady, ^ It is strange what can be keeping Mr. Godol- 
phin ! ' * Oh,' said she, ' I did not write to him.' ' Not write ! ' I 
answered : and I fear I used an ugly word to my lady's face. ' I'll 
write at once,' returned she humbly. ' Of course,' ci-ied I, * when the 
steed's stolen we shut the stable-door.' It's the way of the world." 

Another pause. " I would haVe given anything to take Ethel from 
the house at the time ; to take her from the town," observed Thomas 
Godolphin in a low tone. " I said so then. But it could not be." 

" I should have done it, in your place," said Mr. Snow. If my lady 
had said no, I'd have carried her off in the face of it. Not married, 
you say ? Rubbish ! Every one knows she'd have been safe with you. 
And you would have been married as soon as was convenient. What 
are forms and ceremonies and carping tongues, in comparison with a 
girl's life ? A life, precious as was Ethel's ! " 

Thomas Godolphin leaned his forehead in his hand, lost in retro- 
spect. Oh, that he kad taken her ! that he had set at nought what he 
had then bowed to, the convenances of society ! She might have been 
by his side now, in health and hfe, to bless him! Doubting words 
interrupted the train of thought. 

" And yet I don't know," the surgeon was repeating, in a dreamy 
manner. " What is to be, will be. We look back, all of us, and say, 
' If I had acted thus, if I had done the other, so and so would not have 
happened; events would have turned out dififerently.' But who is to 
be sure of it.^ Had you taken Ethel out of harm's way — as we might 
have thought it — there's no telling but she'd have had the fever just the 
same : her blood might have become infected before she left the house. 
There's no knowing, Mr. Godolphin." 

" True. Good evening. Snow." 

He turned suddenly and hastily to the outer door, but the surgeon 
caught him before he passed its threshold, and touched his arm to 
detain him. They stood there in the obscurity, their faces shaded in 
the dark night. 

" She left you a parting word, Mr. Godolphin." 

" Ah?" 

An hour before she died she was calm and sensible, though fear- 



GONE ON BEFORE. 



95 



fully weak. Lady Sarah had gone to her favourite, and I was alone 
with Ethel. * Has he not come yet ?' she asked me, opening her eyes. 
* My dear,' I said, ^ he could not come ; he was never written for.' For 
I knew she alluded to you, and was determined to tell her the truth, 
dying though she was. ' What shall I say to him for you ? ' I con- 
tinued. She put up her hand to motion my face nearer hers, for her 
voice was growing faint. *Tell him, with my dear love, not to 
grieve,' she whispered, between her panting breath. ^ Tell him that 
I have gone on before.' I think they were almost the last words she 
spoke." 

Thomas Godolphin leaned against the modest post of the surgery 
door, and eagerly drank in the words. Then he wrung the doctor's 
hand, and departed, hurrying along the street as one who shrank from 
observation : for he did not care, just then, to encounter the gaze of his 
fellow-men. 

Coming with a quick step up the side street, in which the entrance to 
the surgery was situated, was fhe Reverend Mr. Hastings. He stopped 
to accost the surgeon. 

Was that Mr. Godolphin?" 

" Ay. This is a blow for him." 

Mr. Hastings's voice insensibly shrank to a whisper. Maria tells me 
that he did not know of Ethel's death or illness. Until they arrived 
here to-night, they thought it was Sarah Anne who died. He went up 
to Lady Sarah's after the train came in, thinking so." 

" Lady Sarah's a fool," was the complimentary rejoinder of Mr. 
Snow. 

" She is, in some things," warmly assented the Rector. " The tele- 
graphic message she despatched to Scotland, telling of the death, was 
so obscurely worded as to cause them to assume that it alluded to 
Sarah Anne." 

"Ah well! she's only heaping burdens on her conscience," rejoined 
Mr. Snow in a philosophic tone. " She has lost Ethel through want of 
care (as I firmly believe) in not keeping her out of the way of infection ; 
she prevented their last meeting, through not writing to him; she " 

" He could not have saved her, had he been here," interrupted Mr. 
Hastings. 

No one said he could. There would have been satisfaction in it 
for him, though, And for her too, poor child." 

Mr. Hastings did not contest the point. He was so very practical a 
man (in contradistinction to an imaginative one) that he saw little use 
in "last" interviews, unless they produced actual good. Turning 
away, he walked home at a brisk pace. Maria was alone when he 
entered. Mrs. Hastings and Grace were out of the room, talking to 
some late applicant : a clergyman's house, like a parish apothecary's, 
is never free long together. Divested of her travelhng cloaks and 
seated before the fiire in her quiet merino dress, Maria looked as much 
at home as if she had never left it. The blaze, flickering on her 
face, betrayed to the keen glance of the Rector that her eyelashes 
were wet. 

" Grieving after Broomhead already, Maria ? " asked he, his tone a 
stern one. 



96 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Oh, papa, no ! I am glad to be at home. I was thinking of poof 
Ethel." 

"She is better off. The time may come, Maria — we none of us 
know what is before us — when some of you young ones who are left 
may wish you had died as she has. Many a one, batthng for very 
existence with the world's cares, wails out a vain wish that he had been 
taken early from the evil to come." 

"It must be so dreadful for Thomas Godolphin ! " Maria resumed, 
looking straight into the fire, and speaking as if in commune with her- 
self, more than to her father. 

" Thomas Godolphin must find another love." 

It was one of those phrases, spoken in satire only, to which the 
Rector of All Souls' was occasionally given. He saw so much to con- 
demn in the world, things which grated harshly on his advanced mind, 
that his speech had become imbued with a touch of gall, and he would 
often give utterance to cynical remarks, uncalled for at the moment. 

Maria took up the words literally. She turned to Mr. Hastings ; her 
cheek flushed, her hands clasped ; altogether betraying vivid emotion. 
" Oh, papa ! another love ! You should not say it of Thomas Godolphin. 
Love, such as his, is not for a week or a year : it is for all time." 

The Rector paused a moment in his reply. His penetrating gaze was 
fixed upon his daughter. " May I inquire whence you have derived 
your knowledge of ' love,' Miss Maria Hastings ? " 

Her eyes drooped, her face turned crimson, her manner grew con- 
fused. She turned her countenance from that of her father, and stam- 
mered forth some lame excuse. " Every one knows, papa, that Thomas 
Godolphin was fond of Ethel." 

" Possibly. But every one does not know that Maria Hastings deems 
herself qualified to enlarge upon the subject," was the Rector's reply. 
And Maria shrank into silence. 

There came a day, not many days afterwards, when Maria Hastings, 
her sisters, and two of her brothers, were gathered in sombre silence 
around the study window of the Rectory. The room was built out at 
the back of the house, over the kitchen, and its side window com- 
manded a full view of the churchyard of All Souls', and of the church 
porch. Grace, who constituted herself mistress of the others a great 
deal more than did Mrs. Hastings herself, allowed the blind to be drawn 
up about two inches at the bottom of the window; and Maria, Isaac, 
Harry, and Rose, kneeling down for convenience sake, brought their 
faces into contact with it, as the mob outside the churchyard gate did 
there. Human nature is the same everywhere, whether in the carefully- 
trained children of a Christian gentleman, or in those who know no 
training but what the streets have given. 

The funeral, even now, was inside the church : it had been inside so 
long that those eager watchers, estimating time by their impatience, 
began to think it was never coming out again. A sudden movement in 
the church porch reassured them, and Grace knelt down and made one 
with the rest. 

Slowly — slowly — on it came. The Reverend Mr. Hastings first, in 
his white robes ; the coffin next ; Thomas Godolphin last, with a 
stranger by his side. Nothing more, except some pall-bearers in their 



GONE ON BEFORE. 



91 



white scarfs, and the necessary attendants. It was a perfectly simple 
funeral : according well with what the dead had been in her simple 
life. 

The appearance of this stranger took the curious gazers by surprise. 
Who was he ? A spare man, past middle age, with a red nose and 
an unmistakable wig on his head. Rumours circulating in Prior's 
Ash had said that Thomas Godolphin would be sole mourner. 
Lady Sarah Grame's relatives — and she could not boast of many — 
lived far north of Aberdeen. " Who can he be ? " murmured Grace 
Hastings. 

" Why, don't you girls know ? That's through your having stuck 
yourselves in the house all the morning, for fear you should lose the 
funeral. If you had gone out, you'd have heard who he is." The retort 
came from Harry Hastings. Let it be a funeral or a wedding, that may 
be taking place under their very eyes, boys must be boys all the world 
over. And so they ever will be. 

" Who is he, then } " asked Grace. 

" He is Ethel's uncle," answered Harry. " He arrived by train this 
morning. The Earl of Macsomething." 

" The Earl of Macsomething ! " repeated Grace. 

Harry nodded. " Mac begins the name, and I forget the rest. Lady 
Sarah was his sister." 

" Is, you mean," said Grace. " It must be Lord Macdoune." 

The church porch was opposite the study window. The grave had 
been dug in a line between the two, very near to the family vault of the 
Godolphins and to the entrance gate of the churchyard. On it came, 
crossing the broad churchyard path which wound round to the road, 
treading between mounds and graves. The clergyman took his place 
at the head, the mourners near him, the rest disposing themselves 
decently around. 

" Grace," whispered Isaac, "if we had the window open an inch, we 
should hear." And Grace was pleased to accord her sanction, and they 
silently raised it. 

" Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is 
full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth 
as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay." 

The children — indeed they were little more — hushed their breath 
and listened, and looked at Thomas Godolphin. Thomas Godolphin 
stood there, his head bowed, his face still, the gentle wind stirring his 
thin dark hair. It was probably a marvel to himself in after-life, how 
he had contrived, in that closing hour, to retain his calmness before the 
world. 

" The coffin's lowered at last ! " broke out Harry, who had been more 
curious to watch the movements of the men, than the aspect of Thomas 
Godolphin. 

" Hush, sir ! " sharply rebuked Grace. And the minister's voice again 
stole over the silence. 

" Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to 
take unto himself the soul of our dear Sister here departed, we there- 
fore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth .... ashes to 
ashes .... dust to dust .... in sure and certain hope of the resur- 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 7 



98 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



rection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ ; who shall 
change our vile body, that it may be hke unto his glorious body, 
according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all 
things to himself." 

Every word came home to Thomas Godolphin's senses ; every syllable 
vibrated upon his heartstrings. That sure and certain hope laid hold 
of his soul, never again to quit it. It diffused its own holy peace and 
calm into his troubled mind : and never, until that moment, had he fully 
realized the worth, the truth, of her dying legacy : Tell him that I 
have gone on before." A few years — God, now present with him^ alone 
knew how few or how many — and Thomas Godolphin would have joined 
her in eternal life. 

But why had Mr. Hastings come to a temporary pause ? Because 
his eye had fallen upon one, then gliding up from the entrance of the 
churchyard to take his place amidst the mourners. One who had 
evidently arrived in a hurry. He wore neither scarf nor hatband, 
neither cloak nor hood : nothing but a full suit of plain black clothes. 

" Look, Maria," whispered Grace. 

It was George Godolphin. He fell quietly in below his brother, his 
hat carried in his hand, his head bowed, his fair curls waving in the 
breeze. It was all the work of an instant : and the minister resumed : 

" I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me. Write, From hence- 
forth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord : even so saith the 
Spirit ; for they rest from their labours." 

And so went on the service to the end. 

The beadle, with much bustle and a liberal use of his staff, scattered 
and dispersed the mob from the gates, to clear a passage. Two mourning 
coaches were in waiting. Thomas Godolphin came forth, leaning on 
his brother's arm, both of them bare-headed still. They entered one ; 
Lord Macdoune stepped into the other. 

Thomas' " cried George Godolphin, leaning forward and seizing 
his brother's hand impulsively, as the mourning-coach paced slowly 
on : "I should have been here in good time, but for a delay in the 
train." 

" How did you hear of it ? I did not know where to write to you," 
was Thomas's reply, spoken calmly. 

" I heard of it at Broomhead. I went back there, and then I came 
off at once. Thomas, could they not save her ? " 

A shght negative movement was all Thomas Godolphin's answer. 

How did you find your father, George ? " 

" Breaking. Breaking fast. Thomas, all his talk is, that he must come 
home to die." 

To Ashlydyat. I know. How is he to come to it ? The Folly is not 
Ashlydyat. He has desired me to see that he is at Prior's Ash before 
Christmas, and I shall do so." 

George looked surprised. " Desired you to see that he is ? " 

" If he is not back speedily, I am to go to Broomhead." 

" Oh, I see. That your authority, upholding his, may be pitted against 
my lady's. Take care, Thomas : she may prove stronger than both of 
you put together." 

" I think not," replied Thomas quietly ; and he placed his elbow on 



A MIDNIGHT WALK. 



99 



the window frame, and bent his face upon his hand, as if wishing for 
silence. 

Meanwhile the Reverend Mr. Hastings had passed through the private 
gate to his own garden ; and half a dozen men were shovelling earth 
upon the coffin, sending it with a rattle upon the bright plate, which 
told who was mouldering within : 

Ethel Grame. Aged twenty years." 



CHAPTER XV. 

A MIDNIGHT WALK. 

Thomas Godolphin sat in his place at the bank, opening the morning 
letters. It was some little time after the interment of Ethel Grame, 
and the second week in December was already on the wane. In two 
days more it was his intention to start for Broomhead : for no tidings 
arrived of the return of Sir George. The very last of the letters he came 
upon, was one bearing the Scotch post-mark. A poor little note with 
a scrawled address : no wonder the sorting-clerk had placed it last of 
all ! It looked singularly obscure, in comparison with those large blue 
letters and their business hands. 

Thomas Godolphin knew the writing. It was Margery's. And we 
may as well read the contents with him, verbatim : 

"Mr. Thomas Sir, 

" I imbrace this favurible oportunaty of adresing you for I con- 
sidur it my duty to take up my pen and inform you about my master, 
Hes not long for this worlds Mr. Thomas I know it by good tokens 
which I don't write not being an easy writer but they are none the less 
true, The master's fretting his life away because he is not at home and 
she is keeping him because she's timorus of the fever. But you saw 
how it was sir when you were here and it's the same story still. 
There'd have been a fight for it with my lady but if I'd been you Mr. 
Thomas I'd have took him also when me and the young ladies went 
with you to Prior's Ash. When I got back here, sir I saw an awful 
change in him and Mr. George he saw it but my lady didn't. I pen 
these lines sir to say you had better come off at once and not wait 
for it to be nearer Christmas, The poor master is always saying 
Thomas is coming for 7ne^ Thonias is comi7ig forme but I'd not answer 
for it now that he will ever get back alive, Sir it was the worst day's 
work he ever did to go away at all from Ashlydyat if my lady was 
dying to hve at the new Folly place she might have gone to it but not 
him. When we do a foohsh wrong thing we don't think of the con- 
sekences at the time at least not much of em but we think all the 
more after and fret our hearts out with blame and it have been slowly 
kilhng him ever since, I am vexed to disturb you Mr. Thomas with 
this epistle for I know you must be in enough grief of your own just now, 

" Your humble servant, 

" Margery." 



I60 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Thomas Godolphin read it over twice, and then crossed to the opposite 
side of the private room, where sat a gentleman at another desk. A tall, 
portly man, with a fresh colour, large, keen dark eyes, and hair white as 
snow. It was Mr. Crosse. 

" Anything particular, Thomas ? he asked, as Thomas Godolphin 
put the letter into his hand. 

" Not in business. Read it, will you ? " 

Mr. Crosse read the letter through. " Is it my advice you wish for ? " 
asked he, when he came to the last word. 

" Not exactly," replied Thomas Godolphin. " I have made up my 
mind, I beheve." 

" To go immediately ? " 

" Yes. Within an hour." 
Right. It is what I should have recommended you to do, had you 
been undecided. When it comes to letter- writing with Margery, the 
thing is serious, rely upon it." 

And within the hour Thomas Godolphin had started. 

The railway station nearest to Broomhead, was three miles distant 
from it, by the road : but there was a shorter cut across some fields — • 
bearing past the house of that Mr. Sandy Bray, if you are curious to 
know — which reduced it to less than two. It was one of those rural 
stations so little frequented that travellers are tempted to ask why they 
were built at all. Such a thing as a fly, or an omnibus, had never yet 
been seen at it, at midday : you may therefore judge what chance 
Thomas Godolphin had of either, getting there, as he did, at mid- 
night. He was the only passenger to alight, and the train went 
puffing on. The man, who lived in the one-roomed cottage close by, 
and was called the station-master, appeared to be the only official to 
receive him. A man who had been drafted thither from one of the 
EngHsh fines. 

" For Broomhead, sir.^^" he questioned, recognizing the traveller. 

" Yes. Do you happen to know how Sir George Godolphin is ? " 

"He looks rare and poorly, sir. He was past here in his carriage 
to-day. Huddled up in a corner of it, as if he was cold; or else hadn't 
the strength to sit up. Her ladyship was inside with him." 

" There's no porter about, I suppose ? " 

"He has been gone this two hours, sir. I'd offer to carry your 
luggage myself, but I shall have the up-express by in half an hour. I 
shut up for the night then." 

" I would not trouble you for so trifling a matter, at this hour, were 
you at liberty," rephed Thomas Godolphin. 

He took up his portmanteau himself : a thing not much larger 
than what the French would call a petit sac-de-nuit, containing little 
besides a clean shirt and his shaving-tackle : and started, bending his 
steps not along the road, but across it to the stile. 

" I wouldn't take the field way to-night, sir, if I were you," said the 
man from the station door. " The road is safest." 

" Why is it ? " asked Thomas Godolphin. 

" There's a nasty bit by the field way, a quarter of a mile before you 
come to Bray's. Anybody, not knowing it well, might take the wrong 
turning, and go, head first, into the dam." 



A MIDNIGHT WALK. 



loi 



' " But I do know it well," said Thomas Godolphin. " And the night 
is hght enough to distinguish the turnings." 

The station-master looked up at the skies — figuratively speaking, for 
he could see nothing but fog. A light, hazy mist; not a dark one; 
which seemed likely to turn to rain. He said no more, except a 
" Good night, sir : " and Thomas Godolphin walked on, hesitating for 
a moment between the two roads, and then turning decisively to that 
of the fields, as if some hidden impulse impelled him. Perhaps it 
did so. 

It was not a pleasant night, a pleasant time, or a pleasant way ; and 
Thomas Godolphin began to think he should have done well to have 
telegraphed his intended journey from Prior's Ash to Broomhead, that 
they might have sent a conveyance to await him at the station. Regrets 
were of no use now, and he trudged along, taking two steps forward, and 
one backward, for the ground in places was wet and slippery. It was 
a peculiar night. There was no moon; there were no stars; no 
skies in fact to be seen at all, as you have heard; and yet the night 
was light. 

What were Thomas Godolphin's thoughts bent upon ? Need you ask ? 
For some time to come, days and weeks and months, they must run 
chiefly upon her who had left him. He remembered his last arrival at 
Broomhead : he remembered his thoughts as he had walked from the 
station as he was doing now ; though then it had been by daylight. His 
musings had been of Ethel, and his coming marriage ; of that farewell 
kiss which she had pressed upon his lips. Now — now he must only 
think of her as one of Heaven's angels. 

He lifted his hat to wipe his brow, and then changed his load to the 
other hand. He was coming to the dam now. He could hear its 
waters. Go carefully, Thomas Godolphin! A few steps down that 
dark turning, and you might never be heard of more. But he knew 
his way, and the night was light, and he bore on his course, and the 
dangerous turn was passed. 

A Httle way farther on, and he could discern the outline of Bray's 
cottage in the distance. A light burnt in one of the windows, and he 
wondered who was ill. Probably Margery's sister. It diverted his 
own sad reflections. Next he became absorbed in thoughts of his 
father. How should he find him ? Ideas, we all know, assume the 
colouring of surrounding associations, and Thomas Godolphin, in that 
soHtary midnight hour, grew to take a more sombre view of the news 
contained in Margery's letter than he had hitherto done. It is won- 
derful how circumstances affect us ! In the broad light of day, walking, 
for instance, as he had done previously to Broomhead, apprehensions 
would not have come over him. Now he pictured his father (by no 
will of his own : the scenes rose up unbidden) as lying ill ; perhaps 
dying. Perhaps even then a telegraphic message to him might be on 
its road to Prior's Ash ! Perhaps 

A cry right over his head! And Thomas Godolphin positively 
started. It proceeded from some night-bird that had dived down upon 
him, and now flew onwards, flapping its wings. Superstitious Margery 
would have called it an omen. 

Thomas Godolphin followed it with his eyes, speculating upon what 



102 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



bird it could be. It looked like a sea-gull; had screamed like one; 
but the sea was far off, and, if it was one, it must have come a long 
distance. 

Back it came again, and dived down as before. Thomas Godolphin 
did not like it, and he wished the portmanteau in his hand had been a 
gun. " I wonder what good these restless night-birds do," he ejacu- 
lated, " except to disturb from sleep any worn-out mortal who may be 
within hearing ? " 

Scenes of the recent past rose up before him : the sombre scenes 
in which he had been an actor. The ominous Shadow of Ashlydyat, 
striking on his sight as he turned the ash-trees, the night of his pre- 
vious summons to Broomhead : the dead face of Ethel lying on her 
bed ; the reminiscence of the funeral scene ; of his walking away from 
it with the dull sound of the earth falHng on her coffin smiting his 
ears ! None of them pleasant things to recall at that particular hour. 
Why should they have come to him 1 

" What business had they there at such a time ? ^ 

Drive them away he could not. But neither did he try to do so. 
They served to make doubly sad, doubly ominous, his new fears for his 
father. He knew how precarious was Sir George's life. What if he 
were then dying ! Nay, what if it were the very moment of his depar- 
ture ? — if he were dead 1 having called upon his children ; upon him, 
Thomas, in vain ? 

♦ That odious bird once more ! It flew over his head with a shriller 
cry than the last. Thomas Godolphin was at that moment within a 
few paces of a stile which lay in his path. He turned his head round 
to look after the bird, without slackening his pace, putting out his 
hand before him to feel for the stile. The hand came into contact 
with it, and Thomas let it rest momentarily. His head was turned, 
still watching the bird, which was then flying round and round, making 
fierce circlets in the air. 

But he could not stop there all night, staring at the bird, and he 
turned sharply round to cross the stile. Placing one foot on its lower 
rail, he 

What made Thomas Godolphin start as if he had been shot ? 
Who and what was that standing on the other side of the stile fixedly 
gazing at him ? A tall, shadowy, upright form, bearing the unmistak- 
able features of Sir George Godolphin. 

Will you — strong, practical, unimaginative men of the world — forgive 
Thomas Godolphin if in that one brief moment the wild superstition-s, 
instilled into his mind in childhood, were allowed their play Forgive 
him, or not, it was the fact. In imagination, only the instant before, 
he had seen his father lying upon his bed, the soul parting from the 
body : and Thomas Godolphin as much believed what he now saw 
before him was his father's spirit, as that he, himself, was in existence. 
The spirit, appearing to him at the moment of its departure. His flesh 
turned cold, and dew gathered on his brow. 

" My son, can it be you ? " 

Thomas Godolphin came out of his folly, and grasped his father. 
That it was real flesh and blood which yielded to his arms, he knew 
now : but perhaps the surprise that it should be so, was even greater 



A MIDNIGHT WALK. 



103 



than the other emotion. Sir George Godolphin there! at that mid- 
night hour ! nearly a mile from home ! and bareheaded ! Was it really 
Sir George? Thomas Godolphin rubbed his eyes, and thought he, 
himself, must have taken leave of his senses. 

" My father ! my dear father ! what are you doing here ? " 

" I thought I'd go to the station, Thomas, and see about a special 
train. I must go back to Ashlydyat to die." 

Thomas chmbed over the stile. The tone, the manner, the words, 
altogether had betrayed to him an unhappy fact — that his father's 
mind was not in a state of perfect sanity.. He trembled for his health, 
too. It was a cold raw night, and here was Sir George in evening 
dress, without so much as an overcoat thrown on ! He, who had only 
been out since the last fainting-fit in a close carriage : and then well 
wrapped up. 

" Where is your hat, father ? 

The old knight lifted his hand to his head, as if he had not known 
that his hat was not there. " I must have come out without it, 
Thomas," he said. "What was that noise over there?" he continued, 
pointing above the stile to the way Thomas had come, his frame shiver- 
ing with cold as he spoke. 

" I think it was a sea-gull. Or some screaming night-bird." 

" I could not get over the stile, Thomas. The walk seemed to have 
taken the strength out of me. How did you come here ? I thought 
you were at Prior's Ash." 

Thomas Godolphin was busy. He had taken off his great coat, and 
was putting it upon his father, buttoning it up carefully. A smaller 
man than Sir George, it did not fit well : but Sir George had shrunk. 
The hat fitted better. 

" But you have no hat yourself! " said Sir George, surveying his son's 
head, when he had submitted in patient silence to the dressing. 

" I don't want one," replied Thomas. " The night air will not hurt 
me." Nevertheless, all the way to Broomhead, he was looking on either 
side, if perchance he might come upon Sir George's hat, lying in the 
road. 

Thomas drew his father close, to support him on his arm, and they 
commenced their walk to the house. Not until then did Thomas know 
how very weak his father was. Stooping, shivering, tripping, with 
every other step, it appeared impossible that he could walk back again : 
the wonder was, how he had walked there. 

Thomas Godolphin halted in dismay. How was he to get his father 
home ? Carry him, he could not : it was of course beyond his strength. 
The light in Bray's window suggested a thought to him. 

" Father, I think you had better go to Bray's and stay there, while 
I see about your hand-chair. You are not able to walk." 

" I won't go to Bray's," returned the knight, with a touch of vehe- 
mence. " I don't like Bray, and I will not put my foot inside his 
threshold. Besides, it's late, and my lady will miss us." 

He pressed on somewhat better towards home, and Thomas Godol- 
phin saw nothing else that could be done, except to press on with him, 
and give him all the help in his power. " My dear father, you should 
have waited until the morning," he said, " and have gone out then," 



104 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"But I wanted to see about a train, Thomas," remonstrated the 
knight. " And I can't do it in the day. She will not let me. When 
we drive past the railway station, she won't get out, and won't let me 
do so. Thomas, I want to go back to Ashlydyat." 

" I have come to take you back, my dear father." 

" Ay, ay. And mind you are firm when she says I must not go be- 
cause of the fever. The fever will not hurt me, Thomas. I can't be 
firm. I have grown feeble, and people take my will from me. You 
are my first-born son, Thomas." 

" Yes." 

" Then you must be firm for me, I say." 

" I will be, father." 

" This is a rough road, Thomas." 

" No, it is smooth ; and I am glad that it is so. But you are tired." 

The old knight bent his head, as if choosing his steps. Presently he 
lifted his head : 

" Thomas, when do they leave Ashlydyat ? " 

" Who, sir ? The Verralls ? They have not had notice yet." 

Sir George stopped. He drew up his head to its full height, and 
turned to his son. " Not had notice ? When, then, do I go back ? I 
won't go to Lady Godolphin's Folly, I must go to Ashlydyat." 

" Yes, sir," said Thomas soothingly. ^' I will see about it." 

The knight, satisfied, resumed his walk. " Of course you will see 
about it. You are my son and heir, Thomas. I depend upon you." 

They pursued their way for some little time in silence, and then Sir 
George spoke again, his tone hushed. Thomas, I have put on mourn- 
ing for her. I mourn her as much as you do. And you did not get 
there in time to see her alive ! " 

" Not in time. No," replied Thomas, looking hard into the mist 
overhead. 

"I'd have come to the funeral, Thomas, if she had let me. But she 
was afraid of the fever. George got there in time for it ? " 
" Barely." 

" When he came back to Broomhead, and heard of it, he was so cut 
up, poor fellow. Cut up for your sake, Thomas. He said he should 
be in time to follow her to the grave if he started at once, and he went 
off then and there. Thomas " — dropping his voice still lower — " whom 
shall you take to Ashlydyat now ? " 

" My sisters." 

" Nay. But as your wife ? You will be replacing Ethel sometime." 
" I shall never marry now, father." 

At length Broomhead was reached. Thomas held open the gate of 
the shrubbery to his father, and guided him through it. 
" Shall we have two engines, Thomas ? " 
" Two engines, sir ! What for ? " 

" They'd take us quicker, you know. This is not the station ! " 
broke forth Sir George in a sharp tone of complaint, as they emerged 
beyond the shrubbery, and the house stood facing them. " Oh, 
Thomas ! you said you were taking me to Ashlydyat I I cannot die 
away from it ! " 

Thomas Godolphin stood almost confounded. His father's discourse, 



THE LAST JOURNEY. 



the greater part of it, at any rate, had been so rational that he had 
begun to hope he was mistaken as to his weakness of mind. " My dear 
father, be at rest," he said : " we will start if you like with to-morrow's 
dawn. But to go now to the station would not forward us : it is by this 
time closed for the night." 

They found the house in a state of commotion. Sir George had 
been missed, and servants were out searching for him. Lady Godol- 
phin gazed at Thomas with all the eyes she possessed, thunderstruck at 
his appearance. What miracle brought you here ? " she exclaimed, 
wonderingly. 

"No miracle, Lady Godolphin. I am thankful that I happened to 
come. What might have become of Sir George without me, I know 
not. I expect he would have remained at the stile where I found him 
until morning ; and might have caught his death there." 

" He will catch that speedily enough if he is to wander out of the 
house at midnight in this mad manner," peevishly rejoined my lady. 



CHAPTER XVL 

THE LAST JOURNEY. 

" I BEG your pardon, Lady Godolphin. That is not the question." 

"Not the question!" reiterated Lady Godolphin. "I say that it is 
the question. The question is, whether Sir George is better and safer 
here than he would be at Prior's Ash. And of course he is so." 

" I think not," replied Thomas Godolphin quietly. "He would be 
equally well at Prior's Ash : equally safe, as I believe and trust. And 
the anxiety to be there, which has taken hold of his mind, has grown 
too strong to be repressed. To detain him here, against his wish, 
would make him ill, Lady Godolphin. Not returning home." 

" Prior's Ash is an unhealthy place just now." 

" Its unhealthiness has passed away. The last to be attacked was — 
was Ethel. And you are aware that time, since then, may be counted 
by weeks." 

" Sir George is partially childish," pursued Lady Godolphin. "You 
may see for yourself that he is so. It would be most unreasonable, it 
would be ridiculous to take notice of his whims. Look at his starting 
out of the house to-night, with nothing on, and roaming a mile or two 
away in the dark ! Is that a proof of sanity ? " 

" It is a proof how fixedly his mind is bent upon returning home," 
replied Thomas Godolphin. "He was endeavouring, as I have already 
informed you. Lady Godolphin, to make his way to the station." 

" I shall have him watched in future," said she. 

" Lady Godolphin," he resumed, speaking in the calmly quiet tone 
which characterized him, unmistakably firm now, in spite of its cour- 
teousness : " I am here by the desire of my father to accompany him 
back to Prior's Ash. I may almost say, to convey him back : for I 
fear he can no longer boast much power of his own, in any way. The 



io6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



last words I said to him, before entering, were, that he should start, if 
it pleased him, with to-morrow's dawn. I must keep my promise." 
"Do you defy me, Thomas Godolphin ? " 

" I have no wish to do so. I have no wish to abate a particle of the 
respect and consideration due to you as my father's wife. At the same 
time, my duty to him is paramount : I hold it more sacred, Lady 
Godolphin, than any earthly thing. He has charged me, by my duty, 
to take him back to Ashlyd — to Prior's Ash : and I shall do so." 

" You would take him back, I suppose, if Prior's Ash were fiill of 
snakes and scorpions ? " returned my lady, somewhat losing her temper. 

" It is full of neither. Nothing is there, so far as I am aware, that 
can harm Sir George. Can you urge a single good reason why he 
should not return to it. Lady Godolphin ! " 

The delicate bloom on my lady's cheeks was surely heightened — or 
did Thomas Godolphin fancy it ? " But, what if I say he shall itot 
return ? " she asked, her voice slightly raised. 

" I think you will not say it. Lady Godolphin," he replied. " It is 
Sir George's wish to go to Prior's Ash, and it is my province to see 
that wish carried out — as he has requested me. Much as I desire to 
respect your feelings and any plans you may have formed, they cannot 
weigh with me in this case. There is no necessity whatever for your 
returning home. Lady Godolphin, unless you choose to do so : but Sir 
George will leave for it to-morrow." 

" And you boast that you do not defy me ! " cried Lady Godolphin, 
with a short laugh. " I would use force to keep him in this house, 
rather than he should go out of it against my will." 

" Force ? " repeated Thomas Godolphin, looking at her for an expla- 
nation. " What sort of force ? " 

" Physical force," she answered, assuming a degree of fair suavity. 
" I would command the servants to bar his exit." 

A faint smile crossed Thomas Godolphin's lips. "Do not attempt 
that, Lady Godolphin," he replied in the respectful manner of one who 
tenders earnest advice. " I should be sorry indeed to publicly oppose 
my authority to yours. You know the servants have, most of them, 
grown old in our service : and that may plead their excuse : but theix 
is not one of them who would not be obedient to the lifting of my 
finger, in the cause of their master." 

Lady Godolphin was foiled. Lady Godolphin had long been aware 
that she should be foiled, if it ever came to an encounter — strength 
against strength — between herself and Thomas Godolphin. Easy 
George she could manage, the Miss Godolphins she could put down. 
Sir George was, now, as a reed in her hands. But Thomas ? — he was 
different. None of them had been so uniformly respectful and cour- 
teous to her as Thomas. And yet she had known that he, of all the 
rest, would not bend to her authority, were any cause to arise why he 
should not do so. 

She sat biting — as far as she dared — her rose-tinted lips ; she lifted 
one hand and toyed with her perfumed ringlets ; she opened a fan 
which lay at her side, and gently fanned herself ; she glanced at the 
still countenance of Thomas Godolphin : and she knew that she must 
give up the game. To give it up with a good grace was essential to 



THE LAST JOURNEY. 



107 



her future ruling : and she was now making up her mind to do this. 
It would never do, either, for her to stand in the hall on the morrow, 
call the servants around her, and say, " It is my pleasure that Sir 
George does not leave this place for Prior's Ash. Keep him in ; hold 
him in; lock the door; use any necessary means," while Thomas 
Godolphin was at hand, to lift — as he had phrased it — his finger, and 
say, " It is my pleasure that my father does go to Prior's Ash. Stand 
back while he passes.'' Lady Godolphin was no simpleton, and she 
could hazard a shrewd guess as to which of the two would be obeyed. 
So she sat, bringing her mind to make a virtue of necessity, and throw 
up the plea. In point of fact, she had no cause of objection to Sir 
George's returning to Prior's Ash, except that she did not care to return 
to it herself For two reasons : one, that she liked Broomhead best : 
the other, that she could not yet subdue her fears of the fever. She 
bent her head, as if examining the chaste devices on her fan, and spoke 
indifferently. 

" You must be aware that my wish to keep Sir George here arises 
solely from the state of Prior's Ash. It always has been our custom 
to spend Christmas there, amongst you all, and I should have had no 
other thought for this Christmas, but for the illness which arose. Will 
you guarantee that it is safe for him ? " 

" Nay, Lady Godolphin. To ' guarantee ' an assurance of the sort 
would be impossible at the best of times. I believe that any fears you 
may entertain now of the fever will prove only a bugbear." 

" The fever has been more than a bugbear to you," she exclaimed, 
acidity in her tone. 

" Yes," he sadly answered. 

He drew his chair from the table, where he had been taking some 
refreshment after his journey, and at that moment the hall clock struck 
two. 

" I am keeping you up very late, Lady Godolphin." 

" It is a pleasant change," she answered. " The life here, with Sir 
George in his delicate state, is so excessively monotonous, that a few 
nights of sitting up and days of bed, might prove an agreeable variety. 
Did I understand you rightly — that you intend to start in the 
morning ? " 

" If Sir George shall then wish to do so as anxiously as he appeared 
to wish it to-night. Otherwise, I shall not object to delay it until the 
following one. I cannot remain longer : business demands my presence 
at home. And," he added, lowering his voice, " I fear that speed is 
necessary for my father's sake. If he does not go pretty soon, he may 
not be able to go at all. It is more than likely that we shall start 
to-morrow." 

" You cannot expect me to be ready in that space of time." 

" Certainly not. Just as you please, Lady Godolphin." 

Thomas Godolphin was shown to his room. Margery waylaid him 
in the corridor and entered it with him. " Did you get my epistle, Mr. 
Thomas ? " 

" It was that which brought me here now, Margery. Otherwise, I 
should not have come until the end of the week." 

" Then you would have come too late, sir. Yes, Mr. Thomas, I 



lo8 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



mean what I say," added the woman, dropping her voice to solemnity. 

" By dreams and signs and tokens, which I have had " 

" Stay, Margery. You know that I am never very tolerant of your 
dreams and signs. Let them rest." 

It's true you are not," answered Margery, without the least appear- 
ance of discomfiture ; and many's the argument I would have liked 
to hold with you over it. But you'd never let me. When you were a 
young man, you'd laugh and joke it down — just as Mr. George might 
now, were I so foolish as to waste words upon hiin — and since you grew 
older and steadier you have just put me off as you are doing at this 
moment. Mr. Thomas, gifts are different in different people. They 
are not sent upon all alike : and the Scripture says so. One will see 
what another can't. One will play beautiful music, while another can't 
tell one tune from another. One man has a head for steam-engines 
and telegraphs, and will put 'em together as if he had a workshop in- 
side him; and another, his own cousin maybe, can hardly tell an 
engine when he sees it, and couldn't work one out if he lived to be a 
hundred years old. And so with other things." 

"Well?" responded Thomas Godolphin : for Margery paused, as if 
waiting for an answer. 

" And do you suppose, Mr. Thomas, that it's not the same with signs 
and warnings ? It is not given to all to see or understand them. It is 
not given, as I take it, for many to see or understand them. But it is 
given to a few. And those few can no more be talked out of knowing 
that it's truth, than they can be talked out of their own life, or of the 
skies above 'em. And, Mr. Thomas, it's not only that those who have 
not the gift can't see or believe for themselves, but they can't be brought 
to believe that others may do so : and so they laugh at and ridicule it. 
Many a time, sir, you have laughed at me." 

"You see so many, you know, Margery," said Thomas Godolphin, 
with a slight smile. 

Margery looked at him. " Sometimes I have thought, sir, that you 
are not quite as unbelieving as you seem. But I know it does not do 
for a gentleman, high and educated and looked up to in his town, to say 
he puts faith in such. So I'll not trouble you, Mr. Thomas, with the 
tokens I have had. I'll not tell you that only last night that ever was, 
I heard the footsteps of " 

" But you are telHng me, Margery." 

" That's just how you take me up, Mr. Thomas ! Well, sir, I say I'll 
not bring forward these things, but I'll speak of what you may think a 
surer sign — and that's Sir George's state of health." 

" Ay ! I can follow you there." 

He let her talk on. And she did so, until he was obliged to give her 
a gentle hint that he should be glad to be alone and get to bed. 

The house was awakened before it was yet dawn. Sir George had 
rung for his servant, had rung for Margery, had rung for the coachman 
to say the carriage was wanted — in short, had rung for so many, that 
the whole household was aroused. My lady appeared, in fur slippers 
and a warm dressing-gown, to know what the commotion could mean. 
His son Thomas was there, the knight answered. He was sure he had 
not dreamt it, but that Thomas ha(i come the previous night ; he met 



THE LAST JOURNEY. 



109 



him at the stile ; and Thomas had promised that they should go to 
Ashlydyat in the early morning. 

It appeared he was sane enough to remember that. My lady re^ 
tired, grumbling ; and Margery went and called Thomas. 

When Thomas reached the room, Sir George was almost in the last 
stage of dressing. His own trembling, eager fingers had done as much 
towards it as his servant. He lifted his face with its ashy hue and its 
strange yearning. " Thomas, my son, I must hasten back to Ashlyd- 
yat. You said I should go there to die." 

"Do you wish to start immediately, father 

" You said I should do so ! " he wailed in a tone imploringly 
earnest. " You said I should start with this morning's dawn." 

" Yes, yes," acquiesced Thomas. And he forthwith busied himself to 
advance the preparations. 

The best hour that they could leave the station was a little before 
nine. No train, except one much earlier, stopped at it before. This 
gave time to get off comfortably : though Sir George, in his impa- 
tience, could with difficulty be induced to sit down to breakfast. My 
lady came in when they were at the table. 

" This is really the most extraordinary proceeding ! " she exclaimed, 
speaking chiefly to Thomas Godolphin. " Were such a thing related 
to me as taking place in another house I should decline to give credence 
to it. Are the hours of the day so few that you must choose the gloom 
of a winter's morning for commencing a journey?" 

Thomas glanced at Sir George, as if to draw her attention to him. 
" My father's anxiety will not allow him to wait. Lady Godolphin. I 
think it well that we should catch the first train." 

" I wash my hands of the journey altogether," said Lady Godolphin. 
"If Sir George does not reach the other end of it alive, you will have 
the goodness to remember that / am not to blame. Far better that he 
were safely kept in his room wrapped up in his dressing-gown in front 
of a good fire." 

" In that case, my lady, I would not answer for it that he reached the 
end of the day alive," interposed Margery, who was in and out of the 
room busier than any of them. " Whether Sir George stays, or whether 
he goes, he'll not last many days," she added in a lower tone, so that it 
might not reach her master's ear. 

" If I must have gone, I would have started at a Christian hour, Sir 
George," resumed his wife. " Getting us all out of bed as if we were 
so many milkmaids.^ " 

Sir George looked round, timidity in his voice and manner. Did 
he fear that she would detain him even now? "You can come on 
afterwards, you know, Lady Godolphin ; we need not hurry you. Oh, 
I must, I must be at Ashlydyat ! " 

Thomas Godolphin came to the rescue. " We shall be in the 
carriage in five minutes, my dear father, if you will only take your 
breakfast." 

And in a little more than five minutes they were seated in it, on their 
way to the station. Sir George's own man and Margery attending them. 
Margery would have deemed it just as possible to cut herself in twain, 
as to be separated from her master in his present state. 



110 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



They did not get him that night to Prior's Ash. Thomas feared the 
long journey for him without a break, so they halted for the night about 
midway. Singularly to state, Sir George did not utter an impatient 
word at the delay : from the moment of leaving Broomhead he had 
become perfectly calm. Whether the fact of his being indisputably on 
the road had soothed his mind to tranquillity, or whether the strangely 
eager desire to be home had now left it, certain it was, that he had 
never mentioned Ashlydyat throughout the day. Of one thing there 
could be no doubt — that he was fast sinking. Sinking both in mind 
and body. Margery grew terrified. Pray Heaven we may get him 
home ! " she aspirated. " Mr. Thomas, as sure as that we are here, he 
would have been dead before this, had he stopped at Broomhead ! " 

In the twilight of the second evening, Sir George was at length once 
more at Prior's Ash. Thomas had telegraphed their arrival, and Janet 
was at the station with the carriage. But, with the first few words, Janet 
perceived that he was perfectly childish. Not only childish, but 
alarmingly changed. Janet grew pale as she turned to Margery. . 

" Since when? '^ she murmured. 

" Since many days, off and on ; but worse since we left Broomhead 
yesterday morning. He has been sinking hour by hour. Miss Janet, 
it's death." 

They got him to the Folly. And, in half an hour, the whole of his 
family were gathered round his death-bed. His partner, Mr. Crosse ; 
the surgeon ; and the Rector of All Souls' were also there. 

He was rambhng for the most part in a disconnected manner : but 
he recognized them all individually, and occasionally gave utterance to 
rational remarks, as he might have done had he been in full possession 
of his senses. He fancied himself at Ashlydyat. 

" I could not have died away from it, you know, Crosse," he sud- 
denly cried to that gentleman. " Thomas was for bringing me back to 
the Folly, but I told him I must go to Ashlydyat. If I did let it to 
strangers, they could not keep me out of it, when I wanted to go there 
to die. A Godolphin must not die away from Ashlydyat. Where's 
Cecil? " he added, after a pause. 

Poor Cecil, the tears streaming down her cheeks, was close to him ; 
in view then. " I am here, papa." » 

The knight laid his hand upon her arm — or rather, essayed to do so, 
but it fell again. His thoughts seemed to pass to another subject. 

Crosse, I have been telling Thomas that I should not allow more 
than three per cent, on those deposits. Have you seen Mainwaring 
lately?" 

Mr. Snow stepped forward and administered something in a wine- 
glass. There appeared to be a difficulty in swallowing, and only part 
of it was taken. "He grows more restless," said the surgeon in an 
undertone. 

Sir George's eyes, as he was slightly raised to take the medicine, had 
fallen upon some object at the other end of the room, and continued to 
be strained on it. " Who has changed the position of the cabinet? " he 
exclaimed, in a stronger tone than he had yet spoken. 

It caused them all to turn and look at the spot. A fine old ebony 
cabinet, inlaid with silver, stood opposite the bed : had stood there ever 



THE LAST JOURNEY. 



Ill 



since they removed to Lady Godolphin's Folly; transplanted thither 
from Ashlydyat. In the latter house, it] had stood on the right of 
Sir George's bed : and his memory had evidently gone back to that. 
There could not be a better proof that he was fancying himself at 
Ashlydyat, lying in his own chamber. 

" Janet 1 why have you placed the cabinet there? " 

Janet Godolphin bent her head soothingly over him. " My dear 
father, it shall be moved, if you wish it." 

The knight looked at her, inquiringly for a moment, perhaps not 
recognizing her. Then he feebly essayed to look beyond her, as if her 
head interposed between his own view and something behind. " Hush, 
my dear, I am speaking to your mother. I want to know why she 
changed the place of the cabinet." 

" We thought you'd like it there. Sir George ; that you could see it 
better there," interposed Margery, who knew better than most of them 
how to deal with the sick. " I'll have it put back before to-morrow 
morning." 

. This satisfied him, and he lay still for a few minutes. They thought 
he would sleep. Presently his eyes opened again, and they rested on 
George. 

" George, where's Charlotte ? " 

" Who, sir ? " demanded George, somewhat taken aback at the 
question. "Do you mean Charlotte Pain? She is at — she is not 
here." 

"Are you married yet? 

"Oh no," said George hastily, while several pairs of wondering 
eyes were directed towards him, and those of the Reverend Mr. Hast- 
ings were of the number. " Time enough for that, father." 

" George ! " next came the words, in a hollow whisper this time, 
" don't let her die, as Ethel did." 

" Not if I can help it," replied George, speaking without any serious 
meaning, except that of humouring his father. 

" And don't let Verrall go off the bargain with the money. He is 
keen that way; but he has no right to touch Charlotte's. If he does — 
Bessy, is Jekyl dead? " 

" Oh no, papa," said Bessy, suppressing her tears as she caressed 
her father's hand : it was in stooping to do this, that the knight had 
observed her. " Jekyl is well and hearty yet, and he asked after you 
to-day. He heard you were coming home." 

" Ay ! All well and hearty, but me. But it is the will of God to take 
me, and He knows what's best. Where's Thomas? " 

" I am here, father," replied Thomas Godolphin, leaning forward so 
that his father could see him. 

Sir George tried to put up his hand with a beckoning gesture. 
Thomas understood it ; he bent his face close to that pale one, and 
clasped the nearly inanimate hand in his, listening reverently to the 
whisper that was breathed so solemnly. 

" Thomas, I charge you, never quit Ashlydyat." 

" I will not," replied Thomas Godolphin. 

"If you bring one home to it, and she would urge you to quit it, 
urge you until you have no will of your own left, do not yield to it. Do 



tt2 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



not listen to her. Break with her, let her go forth alone, rather than 
quit Ashlydyat." 

" Father, I will never, of my owq free will, leave Ashlydyat. I pro- 
mise you that, so far as I can hold control over human events, I will 
live and die in it." 

Certainly Sir George understood the promise and its meaning. 
There could be no mistaking that he did so, by the smile of content 
which from that moment overspread his countenance, lighting up with 
satisfaction even his dying eye. He lay for a considerable time stilly 
and then suddenly called for Margery. 

" You'll tell your mistress that we can't root up those bushes," he 
said, as she approached. " It's of no use trying. As fast as they are 
up from one place they grow in another. They'll not hurt. Tell her 
I say so." 

" I'd get some quicklime. Sir George, and see what that would do,'^ 
was Margery's response, and the words brought up a smile from one or 
two of her listeners, solemn moment though it was. Margery's maxim 
was, never to contradict the dying, but to humour their hallucinations. 
" Obstinate things, those gorses ! " she continued. " But, never you 
trouble about my mistress, sir : she don't mind them." 

The children, standing round his bed, knew quite well that he was 
alluding to their mother, his first wife. Indeed, Lady Godolphin 
appeared to have passed entirely from his mind. 

Again he lapsed into silence, and remained to all appearance in a 
stupor, his eyes closed, his breathing ominously slow. Mr. Crosse 
took his departure, but the Rector and surgeon stayed on yet. The 
latter saw that the final moment was at hand, and he whispered to 
Miss Godolphin that she and her sisters might be better from the 
room. " At any rate," he added, for he saw the dissenting, displeased 
look which overspread her face, " it might be as well to spare the sight 
to Cecil." 

^' No," briefly responded Miss Godolphin. " Our place is here." 
And they watched on. 

With an impulse of strength surprising to see. Sir George suddenly 
rose up in bed, his eyes fixed with a yearning gaze at the opposite end 
of the room. Not at the cabinet this time, but at some spot, far, far 
up, beyond the ceiling, as it appeared. His voice, startling in its clear- 
ness, rang through the air, and his arms were outstretched as if he 
were about to fly. , 

" Janet ! — Janet ! — Janet ! Oh, my dear Janet, I am coming ! " 

He fell back and died. Did anything really appear to him, not 
visible to the mortal eyes around? Were his senses, in that moment 
of the soul's departure, opened to a glimpse of the world he was about 
to enter? It cannot be known. Had it been fiction it would not have 
been written here. 

A little later, the bell of All Souls' Church, booming out over the 
town on the night air, told that Sir George Godolphin had passed 
away. 

It was somewhat remarkable that another funeral, at which Thomas- 
Godolphin was again chief mourner, should follow so closely upon 
Ethel's. A different sort of ceremony, this ; a rare pageant. A pageant 



A ROW ON THE WATER. 



113 



which was made up of plumes and trappings and decorated horses, 
and carriages and mutes and batons, and a Hne of attendants, and all 
the other insignia of the illustrious dead. Ethel could be interred 
simply and quietly, but Sir George must be attended to the grave as 
the Godolphin of Ashlydyat. I don't suppose poor Sir George rested 
any the better for it. 

Sir George made an equitable will, but it proved a vexatious one to 
his widow. Thomas had Ashlydyat : George, a fair sum of money ; 
the Miss Godolphins, each her portion; and there were certain be- 
quests to servants. But little was left to Lady Godolphin : indeed, the 
amount of the bequest was more in accordance with what might be 
willed to a friend, than to a wife. But, it was not in that that the 
grievance lay. Lady Godolphin had the Folly, she had Broomhead, 
and she had an ample income of her own. She was not a particularly 
covetous woman, and she had never expected or wished that Sir 
George should greatly take from his family, to add to it. No, it was 
not that : but the contents of a certain little codicil which was ap- 
pended to the will. This codicil set forth that every article of furni- 
ture or property, which had been removed to the Folly from Ashlydyat, 
whatever might be its nature, and down to the minutest item, should 
be returned to Ashlydyat, and become the property of Thomas 
Godolphin. 

It would pretty nearly strip the Folly, and my lady was very wrath- 
ful. Not for the value of the things : she sustained no injury there : 
for the codicil directed that a specified sum of money (their full value) 
should be handed over to Lady Godolphin to replace them with new 
at the Folly. But it struck upon her in the hght of a slight, and she 
chose to resent it as one. It was specially enjoined that the things 
should be placed at Ashlydyat in the old spots where they had formerly 
stood. 

But, be wrathful as she might, grumble as she would, there could be 
no rebeUion to it in action. And Lady Godolphin had to bow to it. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

A ROW ON THE WATER. 

The time went on. Three months glided by ; nay, four, for April had 
come in : and positions were changed. Thomas Godolphin was the 
resident master of Ashlydyat ; Janet its acting mistress ; Bessy and 
Cecil lived with them. George had taken up his residence at the 
bank, with Margery to look after his comforts, never to remove from 
it, as he supposed, unless Ashlydyat should fall to him. My lady had 
left the Folly for a permanency (unless any whim should at any time 
send her back to it), and the Verralls had taken it. It may be said 
that Lady Godolphin gave up the Folly in a fit of pique. When she 
found that the things were positively to go out of it, she protested that 
she would never replace them with others : she would rather throw the 
money, left for the purpose, into the midst of the sea. She would let 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 8 



114 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



it to any one who would take it, and go back to Broomhead for ever. 
Mr. Verrall heard of this, and made an apphcation for it ; and my lady, 
still smarting, let it to him off-hand, accepting him as a yearly tenant. 
Whether she repented, or not, when the deed was done, and her anger 
had cooled down, could not be told : she took her farewell and departed 
for Scotland without betraying signs of it. Many thought that she 
would return after a while to the place which she had so eagerly and 
fondly erected. Perhaps she might : she could get rid of the Verralls 
at any time by giving them due notice. 

Thomas had settled down in his father's place : head of the bank, 
head of all things, as Sir George had been ; Mr. Godolphin, of Ashlyd- 
yat. Mr. George was head of himself alone. No one of very par- 
ticular note was he : but I can tell you that a great many more anxious 
palpitations were cast to him from gentle bosoms, than were given to 
unapproachable Thomas. It seemed to be pretty generally conceded 
that Thomas Godolphin was wedded to the grave of Ethel. Perhaps 
his establishing his sisters at Ashlydyat, as their home, helped to further 
the opinion, and dash all hopes ; but, very possible hopes from many 
quarters were wafted secretly to George. He would be no mean prize : 
with his good looks, his excellent position, and his presumptive heirdom 
to Ashlydyat. 

April, I say, had come in. A sunny April. And these several changes 
had taken place, and the respective parties were settled in their new 
homes. It went forth to the world that the Verralls intended to give a 
brilliant fete, a sort of house-warming, as they styled it ; and invitations 
were circulated far and wide. Amongst those favoured with one, were 
Mr. and the Miss Godolphins. 

Janet was indignant. She could scarcely bring herself to decline it 
civilly. Cecil, who was not less fond of fetes, and other gay inventions 
for killing time, than are pretty girls in general, would have given her 
head to go. It appeared that Mrs. Hastings also dechned the invita- 
tion : and George Godolphin — who had no intention of dechning it on 
his own score — resolved to know the reason why. 

Though not a frequent visitor at the Rectory : for he could not go 
there much, in the teeth of discouragement so evident as had latterly 
been shown to him by Mr. Hastings, and depended mostly upon chance 
meetings in the street for keeping in exercise his love-vows to Maria : 
George resolved to go boldly down that evening. 

Down he accordingly went. And was shown into an empty room. 
The Rector and Mrs. Hastings were out, the servant said, and the 
young ladies were in the study with the boys. She would tell them. 

Maria came to him. There was no mistaking her start of sur- 
prise when she saw him, or the rush of emotion which overspread her 
face. 

" Who did you think it was ? " asked George. 

" I thought it was your brother. She said ' Mr. Godolphin.' Grace 
will be down in an instant." 

" Will she ? " returned George. You had better go and tell her it's 
Mr. George, and not Mr. Godolphin, and then she won't hurry herself. 
I am not a favourite with Miss Grace, I fancy." 

Maria coloured. She had no excuse to offer for the fact, and she 



A ROW ON THE WATER. 



"5 



could not say that it was untrue. George stood with his elbow on the 
mantel-piece, looking down at her. 

" Maria, I hear that Mrs. Hastings has declined to go to the Folly 
on Thursday. What's that for ? " 

" I don't know," replied Maria. " We do not go very much amidst 
those unusually grand scenes," she added, laughing, " Mamma says 
she always feels as much out of place in them as a fish does out of 
water. And I think, if papa had his own wish, we should never go 
within a mile of anything of the sort. He likes quiet social visiting, 
but not such entertainments as the Verralls give. He and mamma 
were consulting for a few minutes over the invitation, and then she 
directed Grace to write and decline it." 

" It is an awful shame ! " responded George. " I thought I should 
have had you with me for a few hours that day, at any rate, Maria." 

Maria lifted her eyes. " It had nothing to do with me, George. I 
was not invited." 

" Not invited ! " repeated George Godolphin. 

" Only Grace. ^ Mrs. and Miss Hastings.' " 

" What was that for ? " he exclaimed. " Why were you left out ? " 

" I do not know," replied Maria, bending her eyelids and speaking 
with involuntary hesitation. In her heart of hearts, Maria believed 
that she did know : but the last person she would have hinted it to, 
was George Godolphin. " Perhaps," she added, it may have been an 
omission, an oversight ? Or, they may have so many to invite that 
they can only dispense their cards charily." 

"Moonshine!" cried George. "I shall take upon myselt to ask 
Mrs. Verrall why you were left out." 

" Oh, George ! pray don't," she uttered, feeling an invincible re- 
pugnance to have her name brought up in any such way. " Why 
should you? Had the invitation been sent to me, I should not have 
gone." 

" It is a shght," he persisted. " A little later, and let any dare to 
show slight to you. They shall be taught better. A slight to you will 
be a slight to me." 

Maria looked at him timidly, and he bent his head with a fond smile. 
" I shall want somebody to keep house for me at the bank, you knov/, 
Maria." 

She coloured even to tears. Mr. George was proceeding to erase 
them after his own gallant fashion, when he was summarily brought-to 
by the entrance of Grace Hastings. 

There was certainly no love lost between them. Grace did not like 
George, George did not like Grace. She took her seat demurely in her 
mother's chair of state, with every apparent intention of sitting out his 
visit. So George cut it short. 

" What did he come for ? " Grace asked of Maria, when the servant 
had showed him out. 

" He came to call." 

" You appeared to be in very close conversation when I came into 
the room," pursued Grace, searching Maria with her keen eyes. " May 
I ask its purport ? " 

" Its purport was nothing wrong," said Maria, her cheeks deepening 



ii6 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



under the inspection. " You question me, Grace, as if I were a child, 
and you possessed a right over me." 

" Well," said Grace equably. " What was he talking of ? " 

Yielding, timid, sensitive Maria was one of the last to resist this sort 
of importunity. " We had been talking of the Verralls not including 
me in the invitation. George said it was a shght." 

As of course it was," assented Grace. " And, for that fact alone, I 
am glad mamma sent them a refusal. It was Charlotte Pain's doings. 
She does not care that you should be brought too much into contact 
with George Godolphin, lest her chance should be perilled. Now, 
Maria, don't pretend to look at me in that incredulous manner ! You 
know as well as I do that George has a stupid liking for you ; or, at 
least, acts as though he had. And that naturally is not pleasant to 
Charlotte Pain." 

Maria knew well that Grace had divined the true cause for the slight. 
She stood for a few minutes looking silent and humble : an intimation, 
even from Grace, that George " liked her," jarred upon her refined 
sensitiveness, when openly alluded to. But that feeling was almost lost 
in the dull pain which the hint touching Charlotte had called up. 

" Charlotte Pain is nothing to George Godolphin," she resentfully 
said. 

" Charlotte Pain zV," responded Grace. " And if your eyes are not 
yet opened to it, they ought to be. She is to be his wife." 
^' Oh no, she is not," hastily said Maria. 
" Maria, I tell you that she is. I know it." 

Now Grace Hastings rarely made an assertion unless she had good 
grounds for it. Maria knew that. And the dull pain at her heart 
grew and grew, until it was beating with a sharp agony. She appeared 
impassive enough, looking down at her thin gold chain, which her 
fingers were unconsciously wreathing into knots. " You cannot know 
it, Grace." 

" I tell you I do. Mind you, I don't say that they will inevitably be 
married ; only, that they contemplate being so at present. Charlotte 
does well not to make too sure of him ! George Godolphin may see 
half a dozen yet whom he will prefer to Charlotte Pain, in his roving, 
butterfly nature." 

Was Grace right ? Not ten minutes before, Maria had listened to 
words from his lips which most surely intimated that it was herself 
George had chosen. Who was Charlotte ? — who was Charlotte Pain, 
that she should thus thrust herself between them ? 

April, as we learn by its reputation, and by our own experience, 
mocks us with its weather : and not a few envious criticisers had pro- 
phesied showers, if not snow, for the fete at Lady Godolphin's Folly. 
The unusually lovely weather which had marked the month, so far as 
it had gone, had put it into Mrs. Verrall's head to give an outdoor 
entertainment. Mr. Verrall had himself suggested that the weather 
might change; that there was no dependence, at this season of the 
year, to be placed on it. But she would not give up her project. If 
the worst came to the worst at the last moment, she said, they must do 
the best they could with the people indoors. 

But, for once, the weather was not tickle. The day rose warm, calm. 



A ROW ON THE WATER. 



117 



beautifully bright, and by three o'clock in the afternoon most of the gay 
revellers had gathered at the Folly. 

The grounds were dotted with them. These grounds, by the way, 
were chiefly the grounds of Ashlydyat ; those belonging to the Folly 
being exceedingly limited in extent. Janet Godolphin drew down the 
blinds of Ashlydyat, that the eyesore might be shut out : but Cecil 
stole away to her room, and made herself a peep-hole — as the young 
Hastingses had done at Ethel Grame's funeral — and looked out with 
covetous eyes. Janet had said something to Thomas about sending a 
hint to the Folly that the domains of Ashlydyat would not be open to 
the guests : but Thomas, with his quiet good sense, had negatived it. 

Graceless George arrived as large as life, one of the first. He was 
making himself conspicuous among the many-coloured groups— or, 
perhaps it was, that they made him so, by gathering round him — when 
two figures in mourning came gliding up to him, one of whom spoke. ^ 

" How do you do, Mr. George Godolphin ? " 

George turned. And — careless and thoughtless as he was, graceless 
as he was reported to be — a shock of surprise, not unmixed with indig- 
nation, swept over his feelings : for those standing before him were 
Lady Sarah and Miss Grame. 

She — Sarah Anne — looked like a shadow still ; peevish, white, dis- 
contented. What brought them there.? Was it thus that they showed 
their regret for the dead Ethel.? — Was it seemly that Sarah Anne 
should appear at a fete of gaiety in her weak, sickly state ; not yet 
recovered from the effects of the fever ; not yet out of the first deep 
mourning worn for Ethel ? 

"How do you do, Lady Sarah.?" very gravely responded George 
Godolphin. 

Lady Sarah may have discerned SKDmewhat of his feeling from the 
expression of his face. Not that he intentionally suffered it to rise in 
reproof of her : George Godolphin did not set himself up in judgment 
against his fellows. He, indeed ! Lady Sarah drew him aside with 
her, after he had shaken hands with Sarah Anne. 

" I am sure it must look strange to you to see us here, Mr. George. 
But, poor child, she continues so weak and poorly, that I scarcely 
know what to do with her. She set her heart upon coming to this 
fete. Since Mrs. Verrall's card arrived, she has talked of nothing else, 
and I thought it would not do to cross her. Is Mr. Godolphin here?" 

" Oh no," replied George, with more haste than he need have spoken. 

" I thought he would not be. I remarked so to Sarah Anne, when 
she expressed a hope of seeing him : indeed, I think it was that hope 
which chiefly urged her to come. What have we done to him, Mr. 
George? He scarcely ever comes near the house." 

" I don't know anything about it," returned George. " I can see 
that my brother still feels his loss deeply. It may be, Lady Sarah, that 
visits to your house remind him too forcibly of Ethel." 

Lady Sarah lowered her voice to a confidential whisper : " Will he 
ever marry, think you?" 

" At present I should be incHned to say he never would," answered 
George, wondering what in the world it could matter to Lady Sarah, 
and thinking she showed little sorrow or consideration for the memory 



Ii8 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 

of Ethel. " But time works surprising changes," he added : " and time 
may marry Mr. Godolphin." 

Lady Sarah paused. " How do you think she looks — my poor 
child?" 

Miserable," all but rose to the tip of George's tongue. " She does 
not look well," he said aloud. 

"And she does so regret her dear sister; she's grieving after her 
always," said Lady Sarah, putting her handkerchief to her eyes. 

" I don't believe it," thought George to himself. 

" How do you like your new residence?" she resumed, passing with 
little ceremony to another topic. 

" I like it very well. All places are pretty much alike to a bachelor, 
Lady Sarah." 

" Ah, so they are. You won't remain a bachelor very long," con- 
tinued Lady Sarah, with a smile of archness. 

"Not so very long, I dare say," frankly acknowledged Mr. George. 
" It is possible I may put my head in the noose some time in the next 
ten years." 

She would have detained him further, but George did not care to be 
detained. He went after more attractive companionship. 

Chance, or premeditation, led him to Charlotte Pain. Charlotte had 
all her attractions about her that day. Her bright green silk dress-^ 
green was a favourite colour of hers — with its white lace mantle, was 
frequently to be seen by George Godolphin's side. Once they strayed 
to the borders of the stream, in a remote part of the grounds. Several 
were gathered here. A row on the water had been proposed, and a 
boat stood ready. A small boat, holding very few ; but, of those few, 
George and Charlotte made two. 

Could George Godolphin have foreseen what that simple little excur- 
sion in the boat was to do for him, he had never entered it. How is it, 
that no shadow of warning comes over us at these times? How many 
a day's pleasure, begun as a jubilee, how many a voyage, entered upon 
in hope, ends but in death ! Not a fortnight since ; since 7toiv, the 
very hour at which I am writing ; a fine young lad, fresh from his 
studies, was going out to one of our colonies, full of youth, of hope, of 
prospects. Two ships were available for the passage, one as eligible as 
the other : which should he choose ? It seemed not to matter which 
of them, and the choice was made. Could no warning rise up to his 
aid, ever so indefinite, and point away from the chosen one and say it 
must be shunned? The vessel sailed. And she went down — within 
sight of land — not three days out ; and every soul on board, except one, 
perished. " If we had only chosen the other ship for him !" wail that 
lad's mourning friends. Ay ! if we could only Hft the veil, what mis- 
takes might be avoided ! 

George Godolphin, strong and active, took the oars. And when 
they had rowed about to their heart's content, and George was in a 
white heat with exertion, they bethought themselves that they would 
land for a while on what was called the mock island : a mossy spot, 
green and tempting to the eye. In stepping ashore, Charlotte Pain 
tripped, lost her balance, and would have been in the water but for 
George. He saved her, but he could not save her parasol : a dainty 



STRAW IN THE STREETS. 



119 



parasol, for which Miss Charlotte had given three guineas only the 
previous day. She naturally shrieked when it fell into the water ; and 
George Godolphin, in recovering it, nearly lost his balance, and went 
in after the parasol. Nearly ; not quite : he got himself pretty wet, 
but he made light of it, and sat himself down on the grassy island with 
the rest. 

They were all young. Old people seldom care to venture into these 
shallow skiffs : but, had any of mature age been there, experienced 
in chills and rheumatism, they would certainly have ordered George 
Godolphin home at his utmost speed, for a change of clothes, and per- 
haps a glass of brandy. 

Charlotte Pain was shaking the wet from her parasol, when some one 
noticed the dripping state of George's coat. " It wants shaking also," 
said they. " Do pray take it off, Mr. George Godolphin!" 

George took it off, shook it well, and laid it out in the sun to dry. 
And down he "sat again, in his shirt-sleeves, passing some jokes upon 
his state of costume, and requesting to know what apology he must 
make for it. 

By-and-by he began to feel rather chilled : in fact, he grew so cold 
that he put on his coat again, damp as it was. It might have occurred 
to him that the intense perspiration he had been in had struck inwardly, 
but it did not. In the evening he was dancing away with the best of 
them, apparently having escaped all ill effects from the wetting, and 
thinking no further of it. 

Eh, but the young are heedless ! as Janet would have said. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

STRAW IN THE STREETS. 

Ankle-DEEP before the banking-house of Godolphin, Crosse, and 
Godolphin, and for some distance on either side ; ankle-deep down 
Crosse Street as far as you could see, lay masses of straw. As car- 
riages came up to traverse it, their drivers checked their horses and 
drove them at a foot-pace, raising their own heads to look up at the 
windows of the dwelling; for they knew that one was lying there 
hovering between life and death. 

It was George Godolphin. Imprudent George ! Healthy and strong 
as he might be, sound as his constitution was, that little episode of the 
fete-day had told upon him. Few men can do such things with im- 
punity, and come out of them unscathed. " What was a bit of a 
ducking; and that only a partial one? Nothing." As George himself 
said to some remonstrator on the following day. It is not much, 
certainly, to those who are used to it : but taken in conjunction with a 
white heat, and with an hour or two's cooling upon the grass afterwards, 
in the airy undress of shirt-sleeves, it is a great deal. 

It had proved a great deal for George Godolphin. An attack of 
rheumatic fever supervened, dangerous and violent, and neither Dr. 
Beale nor Mr. Snow could give a guess as to whether he would live or 



I20 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



die. Miss Godolphin had removed to the bank to share with Margery 
the task of nursing him. Knockers were muffled ; bells were tied up ; 
straw, as you hear, was laid in the streets ; people passed in and out, 
even at the swing doors, when they went to transact business, with 
a softened tread : and as they counted the cash for their cheques, 
leaned over the counter, and asked the clerks in a whisper whether 
Mr. George was yet alive. Yes, he was alive, the clerks could always 
answer, but it was as much as they could say. 

It continued to be "as much as they could say " for nearly a month, 
and then George Godolphin began to improve. But so slowly ! day 
after day seemed to pass without visible sign. 

How bore up Maria Hastings ? None could know the dread, the 
grief, that was at work within her, or the deep love she felt for George 
Godolphin. Her nights were sleepless, her days were restless ; she 
lost her appetite, her energy, almost her health. Mrs. Hastings 
wondered what was wrong with her, and hoped Maria was not going 
to be one of those sickly ones who always seem to fade in the spring. 

Maria could speak out her sorrow to none. Grace would not have 
sympathized with any feeling §o strong, whose object was George 
Godolphin. And had Grace sympathized ever so, Maria would not 
have spoken it. She possessed that shrinking reticence of feeling, that 
refined sensitiveness, to which betraying its own emotions to another 
would be little less than death. Maria could not trust her voice to 
ask after him: when Mr. Hastings or her brothers would come in and 
say (as they had more than once), " There's a report in the town 
that George Godolphin's dead," she could not press upon them her 
eager questions, and ask, "Is it likely to be true ? Are there any 
signs that it is true?" Once, when this rumour came in, Maria made 
an excuse to go out : some trifle to be purchased in the town, she 
said to Mrs. Hastings : and went down the street inwardly shivering, 
too agitated to notice acquaintances whom she met. Opposite the 
bank, she stole glances up at its private windows, and saw that the 
blinds were down. In point of fact, this told nothing, for the blinds 
had been kept down much since George's illness, the servants not 
troubling themselves to draw them up : but to the fears of Maria 
Hastings, it spoke volumes. Sick, trembling, she continued her way 
mechanically : she did not dare to stop, even for a moment, or to show, 
in her timidity, as much as the anxiety of an indifferent friend. At 
that moment Mr. Snow came out of the house, and crossed over. 

Maria stopped then. Surely she might halt to speak to the surgeon 
without being suspected of undue interest in Mr. George Godolphin. 
She even brought out the words, as Mr. Snow shook hands with her : 
" You have been to the bank ? " 

" Yes, poor fellow ; he is in a critical state," was Mr. Snow's answer. 
" But I think there's a faint indication of improvement, this afternoon." 

In the revulsion of feeling which the words gave, Maria forgot her 
caution. " He is not dead, then.-^" she exclaimed, all too eagerly, her 
face turning to a glowing crimson, her lips apart with emotion. 

Mr. Snow gathered in the signs, and a grave expression stole over 
his lips. But the next minute he was smiling openly. " No, he is 
not de?d yet, Miss Maria; and we must see what we can do towards 



STRAW IN THE STREETS. 



121 



keeping him alive." Maria turned home again with a beating and a 
thankful heart. 

A weary, weary summer for George Godolphin — a weary, weary 
illness. It was more than two months before he rose from his bed at 
all, and it was nearly two more before he went down the stairs of the 
dwelling-house. A fine, balmy day it was, that one in June, when 
George left his bed for the first time, and was put in the easy-chair, 
wrapped up in blankets. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, and 
bees and butterflies sported in the summer air. George turned his 
weary eyes, weary with pain and weakness, towards the cheering signs 
of outdoor life, and wondered whether he should ever be abroad 
again. 

It was August before that time came. Early in that month the close 
carriage of Ashlydyat waited at the door, to give Mr. George his first 
airing. A shadowy object he looked, Mr. Snow on one side of him, 
Margery on the other ; Janet, who would be his companion in the 
drive, following. They got him downstairs between them, and into the 
carriage. From that time his recovery, though slow, was progressive, 
and in another week he was removed for change to Ashlydyat. He 
could walk abroad then with two sticks, or with a stick and somebody's 
arm. George, who was getting up his spirits wonderfully, declared 
that he and his sticks should be made into a picture and sent to the 
next exhibition of native artists. 

One morning, he and his sticks were sunning themselves in the 
porch at Ashlydyat, when a stranger approached and accosted him. 
A gentlemanly-looking man, in a straw hat, with a light travelling over- 
coat thrown upon his arm. George looked a gentleman also, in spite 
of his dilapidated health and his sticks, and the stranger raised his 
hat with something of foreign urbanity. 

" Does Mr. Verrall reside here ? " 

" No," replied George. 

A hard, defiant sort of expression rose immediately to the stranger's 
face. It almost seemed to imply that George was deceiving him : and 
his next words bore out the impression. " I have been informed that 
he does reside here," he said, with a stress upon the " does." 

" He did reside here," replied George Godolphin : but he does so 
no longer. That is where Mr. Verrall lives," he added, pointing one 
of his sticks at the white walls of Lady Godolphin's Folly. 

The stranger wheeled round on his heel, took a survey of it, and 
then lifted his hat again, apparently satisfied. " Thank you, sir," he 
said. " The mistake was mine. Good morning." 

George watched him away as he strode with a firm, quick, elastic 
step towards the Folly. George wondered when he should walk again 
with the same step. Perhaps the idea, or the desire to do so, impelled 
him to try it then. He rose from his seat and went tottering out, 
drawing his sticks with him. It was a tempting morning, and George 
strolled on in its brightness, resting now on one bench, now on another, 
and then bearing on again. 

" I might get as far as the Folly, if I took my time," he said to 
himself. " Would it not be a surprise to them ! " 

So he bore onwards to the Folly, as the stranger had done. He was 



122 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



drawing very near to it, was seated, in fact, on the last bench that he 
intended to rest on, when Mr. Verrall passed him. 

" Have you had a gentleman inquiring for you? " George asked him. 

"What gentleman?" demanded Mr. Verrall. 

"A stranger. He came to Ashlydyat, supposing you lived there. 
I sent him to the Folly." 

" Describe him, will you ? " said Mr. Verrall. 

" I noticed nothing much to describe," replied George. " He wore a 
straw hat, and had a thin tweed coat over his arm. I should fancy he 
had just come off a journey." 

Mr. Verrall left George where he was, and went back to the Folly. 
George rose and followed more slowly. But when he got beyond the 
trees, he saw that Mr. Verrall must have plunged into them : as if he 
would go into the Folly by the servants' entrance. George crossed the 
lawn, and made straight for the drawing-room windows, which stood 
open. 

Scarcely had he entered, and flung himself into the first easy-chair, 
when he saw the same stranger approach the house. Where had he 
been, not to have found it before? But George immediately divined 
that he had taken the wrong turning near the ash-trees, and so had 
had the pleasure of a round to Prior's Ash and back again. The room 
was empty, and George sat recovering breath and enjoying the luxury 
of a rest, when the stranger's knock resounded at the hall-door. 

A servant, as he could hear, came forth to open it ; but, before that 
was effected, flying footsteps followed the man across the hall, and he 
was called, in the voice of Charlotte Pain. 

"James," said she, in a half- whisper, which came distinctly to the 
ear of George Godolphin, " should that be any one for Mr. Verrall, 
say nothing, but show him in here." 

A second room, a smaller one, stood between the one George had 
entered, and the hall. It opened both to the drawing-room and the 
hall ; in fact, it served as a sort of anteroom to the drawing-room. It 
was into this room that the stranger was shown. 

Charlotte, who had taken a seat, and was toying with some em- 
broidery-work, making believe to be busy over it, rose at his entrance, 
with the prettiest air of surprise imaginable. He could have staked 
his life, had he been required to do it, that she knew nothing what- 
ever of his approach until that identical moment, when James threw 
open the door, and announced, "A gentleman, ma'am." James had 
been unable to announce him in more definite terms. Upon his asking 
the stranger for a name, the curt answer had been, " Never mind the 
name. Mr. Verrall knows me." 

Charlotte rose. And the gentleman's abruptness changed to courtesy 
at the sight of her. " I wish to see Mr. Verrall," he said. 

" Mr. Verrall is in town," replied Charlotte. 

"In town ! " was the answer, delivered in an accent of excessive 
surprise. "Do you mean in London, madam?" 

" Certainly," rejoined Charlotte. " In London." 

" But he only left London last night to come here ! " was the stranger's 
answer. 

It brought Charlotte to a pause. Self-possessed as she was, she had 



STRAW IN THE STREETS. 



123 



to think a moment before hazarding another assertion. " May I in- 
quire how you know that he left London last night for this?" she 
asked. 

" Because, madam, I had business yesterday of the very last import- 
ance with Mr. Verrall. He made the appointment himself, for three 
o'clock. I went at three : and could not find him. I went at four, 
and waited an hour, with a like result. I went again at seven, and 
then I was told that Mr. Verrall had been telegraphed for to his country 
seat, and had started. I had some difficulty in finding out where his 
country seat was situated, but I succeeded in doing that : and I followed 
him in the course of the night." 

" How very unfortunate ! " exclaimed Charlotte, who had obtained her 
clue. "He was telegraphed for yesterday, and arrived in answer to it, 
getting here very late last night. But he could not stay. He said he 
had business to attend to in London, and he left here this morning by 
an early train. Will you oblige me with your name?" she added. 

" My name, madam, is Appleby. It is possible that you may have 
heard Mr. Verrall mention it, if, as I presume, I have the honour of 
speaking to Mrs. Verrall." 

Charlotte did not undeceive him. ^^When did you see Mr. Verrall 
last ? " she suddenly inquired, as if the thought had just struck her. 

" The day before yesterday. I saw him three times that day, and he 
made the appointment for the following one." 

" I am so sorry you should have had a useless journey," said Char- 
lotte, with much sympathy. 

" I am sorry also," said the stranger. " Sorry for the delay this 
causes in certain arrangements ; a delay I can ill afford. I will wish 
you good morning, madam, and start back by the first train." 

Charlotte touched the bell, and curtsied her adieu. The stranger had 
the door open, when he turned round, and spoke again. 

" I presume I may entirely rely upon what you tell me — that Verrall 
has gone back?" 

" Oh, certainly," answered Charlotte. 

Now, every syllable of this colloquy had reached the ears of George 
Godolphin. It puzzled him not a little. Were there two Verralls? 
The Verrall of the Folly, with whom he had so recently exchanged 
Avords, had certainly not been in London for a fortnight past, or any- 
where else but in that neighbourhood. And what did Charlotte mean, 
by saying he had gone to town that morning ? 

Charlotte came in, singing a scrap of a song. She started when she 
saw George, and then flew to him in a glow of delight, holding out her 
hands. 

What could he do, but take them? What could he do, but draw 
Charlotte down beside him on the sofa, holding them still? "How 
pleased I am to see you ! " exclaimed Charlotte. " I shall think the 
dear old times are coming round again." 

"Charlotte mia, do you know what I have been obhged to hear? 
That interesting colloquy you have been taking part in in the next room." 

Charlotte burst into a laugh. From the moment when she first 
caught a ghmpse of George, seated there, she had felt sure that he 
must have heard it. " Did I do it well?" she cried, triumphantly. 



124 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" How could you invent such fibs?" 

"Verrall came upstairs to me and Kate," said Charlotte, laughing 
more merrily than before. " He said there was somebody going to call 
here, he thought with a begging petition, and he did not care to see 
him. Would I go and put the man off? I asked him how I should 
put him off, and he answered, ^ Any way. Say he had gone to London, 
if I hked.' " 

Was Charlotte telling truth or falsehood ? That there was more in 
all this than met the eye was evident. It was no business, however, of 
George Godolphin's, neither did he make it his. 

And you have really walked here all the way by yourself ! " she 
resumed. " I am so glad ! You will get well now all one way." 

" I don't know about getting well ^ all one way,' Charlotte. The 
doctors have been ordering me away for the winter." 

" For the winter ! " repeated Charlotte, her tone growing sober. 
^' What for? Whereto?" 

" To some place where the skies are more genial than in this cold 
chmate of ours," replied George. " If I wish to get thoroughly well, 
they say, I must start off next month, September, and not return until 
April." 

" But — should you go alone?" 

" There's the worst of it. We poor bachelors are like stray sheep — 
nobody owning us, nobody caring for us." 

" Take somebody with you," suggested Charlotte. 
" That's easier said than done," said George. 

Charlotte threw one of her brilliant glances at him. She had risen, 
and was standing before him, all her attractions in full play. There's 
an old saying, Mr. George Godolphin, that where there's a will, there's 
a way," quoth she. 

George made a gallant answer, and they were progressing in each 
other's good graces to their own content, when an interruption came to 
it. The same servant who had opened the door to the stranger entered. 

" Miss Pain, if you please, my master says will you go up to him." 

" I declare you make me forget everything," cried Charlotte to 
George, as she left the room. And picking up her King Charley, she 
threw it at him. " There ! take care of him, Mr. George Godolphin, 
until I come back again." 

A few minutes after, George saw Mr. Verrall leave the house and 
cross the lawn. A servant behind him was bearing a small port- 
manteau and an overcoat, similar to the one the stranger had carried 
on his arm. Was Mr. Verrall also going to London? 



( 125 ) 



CHAPTER XIX. 

ONE STICK DISCARDED. 

The morning sun shone on the green lawn, on the clustering flowers, 
rich in many colours, sweet in their perfume, before the breakfast- 
room at Ashlydyat. The room itself was in shadow : as it is pleasant 
in summer for a room to be : but the windows stood open to the delights 
of outdoor life. 

Janet presided at the breakfast-table. She always did preside there. 
Thomas, Bessy, and Cecil were disposed around her ; leaving the side 
next the windows vacant, that nothing might come between them and 
the view of the summer's morning. A summer that would soon be on 
the wane, for September was approaching. 

" She ought to be here by four o'clock," observed Bessy, continuing 
the conversation. " Otherwise, she cannot be here until seven. No 
train comes in from Farnley between four o'clock and seven, does it, 
Thomas ? " 

" I think not," replied Thomas Godolphin. " But I really know very 
little about their branch lines. Stay. Farnley ? No : I remember : 
I am sure that nothing comes in between four and seven." 

" Don't fash yourselves," said Janet with composure, who had been 
occupied with the urn. " When Mrs. Briscow sends me word she will 
arrive by the afternoon train, I know she can only mean the one that 
gets here at four o'clock : and I shall be there at four in the carriage 
to meet her. She is early in her ideas, and she would have called 
seven the night train." 

Cecil, who appeared to be more engaged in toying with the black 
ribbons that were flowing from the white sleeves round her pretty wrists, 
than in taking her breakfast, looked up at her sister. " How long is it 
since she was here last, Janet ? " 

" She was here the summer after your mother died." 

"All that time ! " exclaimed Cecil. " It is very good of her to leave 
her home at her age, and come amongst us once again." 

" It is George who is bringing her here ; I am sure of that," returned 
Janet. " She was so concerned about his illness. She wants to see 
him now he is getting better. George was always her favourite." 

" How is George this morning ?" inquired Thomas Godolphin. 

" George is alive and pretty well," replied a voice from the door, which 
had opened. There stood George himself. 

Alive decidedly ; but weak and wan still. He could walk with the 
help of one stick now. 

" If I don't make an effort — as somebody says, in that bookcase — I 
may remain a puny invahd for ever, like a woman. I thought I'd try 
and surprise you." 

They made a place for him, and placed a chair, and set good things 
before him ; all in affectionate eagerness. But George Godolphin 
could not accomplish much breakfast yet. " My appetite is capricious, 



126 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Janet," he observed. I think to-morrow I will try chocolate and 
milk." 

A cup can be made at once, George, if you would like it." 

" No, I don't care about it now. I suppose the doctors are right 
that I can't get into proper order again, without change. A dull time 
of it, I shall have, whatever place they may exile me to." 

A question had been mooted, bringing somewhat of vexation in its 
discussion, as to who should accompany George, Whether he should 
be accompanied at all, in what he was pleased to term his exile : and 
if so, which of them should be chosen. Janet could not go ; or thought 
she could not; Ashlydyat wanted her. Bessy was deep in her schools, 
her district-visiting, in parish affairs generally, and openly said she did 
not care to quit them just now. Cecil was perfectly ready and willing. 
Had George been going to the wilds of Africa, Cecil would have entered 
on the journey with enthusiasm : the outer world had attractions for 
Cecil and her inexperience. But Janet did not deem it expedient to 
trust pretty Cecil to the sole guardianship of thoughtless George, and 
that was put down ere Cecil had well spoken of it. George's private 
opinion was — and he spoke it publicly — that he should be better with- 
out any of them than with them ; that they would only be a trouble." 
On one point, he turned restive. Janet's idea had been to despatch 
Margery with him ; to see after his comforts, his medicines, his well- 
aired beds, and his beef-tea. Not if he knew it, George answered. 
Why not set him up at once with a lady's-maid, and a nurse from the 
hospitals, in addition to Margery ? And he was pleased to indulge in 
so much ridicule upon the point, as to anger Janet and offend Margery. 

" I wish I knew some fellow who was going yachting for the next six 
months, and would give me boat-room," observed George, stirring his 
tea listlessly. 

" That would be an improvement ! " said Janet, speaking in satire. 
" Six months' sea-sickness and sea- drenching would about do for you 
what the fever has left undone." 

" So it might," said George. " Only that we get over sea-sickness in 
a couple of days, and sea-drenchings are wholesome. However, don't 
let it disturb your placidity : the yacht is wanting, and I am not likely 
to have the opportunity of trying it. No, thank you, Janet " — rejecting 
a plate she was offering him — " I cannot eat anything." 

" Mrs. Briscow comes to-day, George," observed Bessy. Janet is 
going to meet her at the station at four. She is coming purposely to 
see you." 

"Very amiable of the old lady ! " responded George. " It's a pity I 
am going out to dinner." 

Thomas looked surprised. George was not yet in precisely dinner- 
visiting condition. 

" I have promised Mrs. Verrall to get as far as the P^olly this after- 
noon, and stay and dine with them. En famille^ you know." 

" Mr. Verrall is not at home," said Bessy. 

" But she and Charlotte are," responded George. 

" You know you must not be out in the night air, George." 

" I shall be home by sundown, or thereabouts. Not that the night 
air would hurt me now.'^ 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 



127 



" You cannot take rich dishes yet," urged Bessy again. 

" Bien entendu. Mrs. Verrall has ordered an array of invalid ones : 
mutton-broth h, Teau, and boiled whiting au naturel," responded 
George, who appeared to have an answer ready for all dissentient 
propositions. 

Janet interposed, looking and speaking very gravely. "George, it 
will be a great mark of disrespect to Mrs. Briscow, the lifelong friend of 
your father and your mother, not to be at home to sit at table with her 
the first day she is here. Only one thing could excuse your absence — 
urgent business. And, that, you have not to plead." 

George answered tartly. He was weak from his recent illness, and 
like many others under the same circumstances, did not like being 
crossed in trifles. "Janet, you are unreasonable. As if it were 
necessary that I should break a promise, just for the purpose of dining 
with an old woman ! There will be plenty of other days to dine with 
her. And I shall be at home this evening before you have risen from 
table." 

" I beg you to speak of Mrs. Briscow with more respect, George. 
It cannot matter whether you dine at the Verralls' to-day or another 
day," persisted Janet. " I would not say a word against it, were it an 
engagement of consequence. You can go to the Folly any day." 

" But I choose to go to-day," said George. 

Janet fixed her deep eyes upon him, her gaze full of sad penetration, 
her voice changed to one of mourning. " Have those women cast a 
spell upon you, lad ? " 

It drove away George's ill-humour. He burst into a laugh, and re- 
turned the gaze : openly enough. " Not they, Janet. Mrs. Verrall 
may have spells to cast, for aught I know : it's Verrall's business, not 
mine : but they have certainly not been directed to me. And Char- 
lotte " 

" Ay," put in Janet in a lower tone, " what of Charlotte Pain ? " 

" This, Janet. That I can steer clear of any spells cast by Charlotte 
Pain. Not but that I admire Charlotte very much," he added in 
a spirit of mischief. " I assure you I am quite a slave to her fasci- 
nations." 

" Keep you out of her fascinations, lad," returned Janet in a tone of 
solemn meaning. " It is my first and best advice to you." 

" I will, Janet, when I find them growing dangerous." 

Janet said no more. There was that expression on her countenance 
which they well knew ; telling of grievous dissatisfaction. 

Rising earlier than his strength was as yet equal to, told upon George 
Godolphin : and by the middle of the day he felt so full of weariness 
and lassitude, that he was glad to throw himself on to the sofa in the 
large drawing-room, quiet and unoccupied then, wheeling the couch 
first of all with his feeble strength, close to the window, that he might 
be in the sunshine. Its warmth was grateful to him. He dropped 
asleep, and only woke considerably later, at the entrance of Cecil. 

Cecil was dressed for the day, in a thin, flowing black dress, a jet 
necklace on her slender neck, jet bracelets on her fair arms. A fair 
flower was CeciHa Godolphin : none fairer within all the precincts of 
Prior's Ash. She knelt down by George and kissed him. 



128 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"We have been in to glance at you two or three times, George. 
Margery has prepared something nice for you, and would have aroused 
you to take it, only she says sleep will do you as much good as food." 

" What's the time ? " asked George, too indolent to take his own watch 
from his pocket. 

" Half-past three." 

" Nonsense ! " cried George, partially starting up. " It can't be so 
late as that." 

" It is, indeed. Janet has just driven off to the station. Don't rise 
this minute : you are hot." 

I wonder Janet let me sleep so long ! " 

"Why should she not? Janet has been very busy all day, and 
very " 

" Cross ? " put in George. 

" I was going to say silent," repHed Cecil. " You vexed her this 
morning, George." 

" There was nothing that she need have been vexed at," responded 
Mr. George. 

Cecil remained for a few moments without speaking. " I think Janet 
is afraid of Charlotte Pain," she presently said. 
" Afraid of Charlotte Pain ! In what way ? " 

" George " — lowering her voice, and running her fingers caressingly 
through his bright hair as he lay — " I wish you would let me ask you 
something." 

" Ask away," replied George. 

" Ay, but will you answer me ? " 

" That depends," he laughed. " Ask away, Cely." 

" Is there anything between you and Charlotte Pain ? " 

" Plenty," returned George in the lightest possible tone. " As there 
is between me and a dozen more young ladies. Charlotte, happening 
to be the nearest, gets most of me just now." 

" Plenty of what ? " 

" Talking and laughing and gossip. That's about the extent of it, 
pretty Cely." 

Cecil wished he would be more serious. " Shall you be likely to 
marry her ? " she breathed. 

" Just as likely as I shall be to marry you," and he spoke seriously 
now. 

Cecil drew a sigh of relief. " Then, George, I will tell you what 
it is that has helped to vex Janet. You know our servants get talk- 
ing to Mrs. Verrall's, and her servants to ours. And the news was 
brought here that Charlotte Pain has said she should probably be 
going on a journey : a journey abroad, for six months or so : to some 
place where she should remain the winter. Margery told Janet : and 
—and " 

" You construed it, between you, that Charlotte was going to be a 
partner in my exile ! What droll people you must all be ! " 

"There's no doubt, George, that Charlotte Pain was heard to 
say it." 

" I don't know what she may have been heard to say. It could have 
borne no reference to my movements. Cecil ? " 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 



i29 



^^Well?'* 

" Did you ever hear of old Max's hounds losing their scent ? 
" No — I don't know. What do you mean ? " 

And while George Godolphin was laughing at her puzzled look, 
Margery came in. "Are you almost famished, Mr. George.'* How 
could you think of dropping off to sleep till you had had something to 
sustain you ? " 

" We often do things that we don't * think ' to do, Margery," quoth 
he, as he rose from the sofa. 

Nothing more true, Mr. George Godolphin. 

Ere long he was on his way to Mrs. Verrall's. Notwithstanding 
Janet's displeasure, he had no idea of foregoing his engagement. The 
society of two attractive women had more charms for listless George 
than quiet Ashlydyat. It was a lovely afternoon, less hot than it had 
been of late, and George really enjoyed it. He was beginning to walk 
so much better. That long sleep had rested and refreshed him, and 
he believed that he could walk well into Prior's Ash. " I'll try it to- 
morrow," thought George. 

Up the steps, over the terrace, across to the open windows of the 
Folly. It was the easiest way in, and George was not given to un- 
necessary ceremony. He supposed he might find the ladies in the 
drawing-room, and he stepped over the threshold. 

Only one was there. Charlotte. She did not see him enter. She 
was before a pier-glass, holding up her dog, King Charley, that he 
might snarl and bark at the imaginary King Charley in the glass. 
That other dog of hers, the ugly Scotch terrier which you have heard 
of before, and a third, looking something like a bull-dog, were leaping 
and howling at her feet. It would appear that nothing pleased Char- 
lotte better than putting her dogs into a fury. Charlotte wore a dark 
blue silk dress with shaded flounces, and a lighter blue silk jacket : the 
latter, ornamented with braidings and buttons of silver, somewhat 
after the fashion of her green riding-habit, and fitting as tightly to the 
shape. A well-formed shape ! — and George Godolphin thought so, as 
she stood with her arms lifted, setting the dogs at the glass. 

" Hi, King ! Seize him, Charley ! Go at him ! — hiss ! Tear him ! 
bite him ! — hiss-ss-ss ! " 

The noisy reception by the other dogs of Mr. George Godolphin, 
brought the young lady's words and her pretty employment to a stand- 
still. She released the imprisoned dog from her arms, letting him 
drop anywhere, and turned to George Godolphin. 

" Have you come at last ? I had given you up ! I expected you an 
hour and a half ago." 

" And, to while away the time, you set your dogs on to snarl and 
fight ! " returned he, as he took her hand. " I wonder you don't go 
distracted with the noise, Charlotte ! " 

" You don't like dogs ! I often tell you so." 

" Yes, I do — in their proper places." 

Charlotte turned from him with a pout. The terrier jumped upon 
her. 

" Down, Pluto, down ! A gentleman here thinks I ought to hold you 
poor dogs at arm's length." 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 9 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" At the yard's length, if you please, Charlotte," corrected George, 
who did not feel inclined to compromise his opinion. Hark at them ! 
they might be heard at Prior's Ash." 

" And his name's George Godolphin, good Pluto ! " went on Char- 
lotte, doing all she possibly could, in a quiet way, to excite the dogs. 

Down, then, Pluto ! down ! " 

" I should muzzle you, Mr. Pluto, if you were mine," cried George, 
as the dog jumped up at him furiously, and then turned to attack his 
former adversary. Pluto ! " he continued, meaningly ; " who gave 
him that name, Charlotte 1 " 

^' I did," avowed Charlotte. " And I named this other one King 
Charley, after his species. And this one is Deuce. . What have you 
to say against the names? " 

" Nothing," said George. " I think them very good, appropriate 
names," he added, his hps parting. 

They were certainly very good dogs — if to make a most excruciating 
noise constitutes merit. George Godolphin, his nerves still in a shat- 
tered condition, lifted his hand wearily to his forehead. It brought 
Charlotte Pain to her recollection. 

" Oh, George, I forgot ! I did, really ! I forgot you were not as 
strong yet as the rest of us. Be quiet, then, you three horrid brutes! 
Be quiet, will you ! Go off, and quarrel outside." 

Using her pointed toe rather liberally, Charlotte set herself to scatter 
the dogs. They were not very obedient. As soon as one was got out 
another sprang in, the noise never ceasing. Charlotte snatched up 
a basket of macaroons that happened to be on a side-table, and scat- 
tered the cakes on the terrace. " There, quarrel and fight over those ! " 

She put down the empty basket, closed the window to shut out the 
noise, and turned to George. Spreading out her dress on either side, 
after the manner once in vogue in ancient ballrooms she dropped 
him an elaborate curtsey. 

" Mr. George Godolphin, what honour do you suppose is thrust upon 
me to-day ? " 

" You must tell me, Charlotte, if it's one you wish me to know," he 
answered. " I can never attempt to guess when I feel tired, as I do 
now." 

"Your Walk has tired you? " 

" I suppose it has. Though I thought how well I felt as I came 
along." 

" The great honour of entertaining you all by my own self is dele- 
gated to me," cried Charlotte gaily, dropping another curtsey. " I 
hope we shall not quarrel, as those dogs are doing." 

*^ The honour of entertaining me ! " he repeated, not grasping her 
meaning. " Entertaining me for what? " 

" For dinner, sir. Mrs. Verrall has gone to London." 

" No ! " he exclaimed. He did not believe her. 

Charlotte nodded. " She went at midday." 

^' But what took her away so suddenly?" exclaimed George, in sur- 
prise. " She had no intention yesterday of going." 

" A freak. Or, impulse — if you like the word better. Kate rarely 
acts upon anything else. She has been expecting Verrall home these 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 131 

last three days ; but he has neither come nor written : and this morn- 
ing, after the post was in, she suddenly declared she'd go to town, and 
see what was keeping him." 

They may cross each other on the road." 

" Of course they may : and Kate have her journey for her pains. 
That's nothing to her she likes travelling. * What am I to do with 
Mr. George Godolphin ? Entertain him ? ' I said to her. * I suppose 
you can contrive to do it,' she answered. * I suppose I could,' I said. 
' But, what about its being proper? ' I asked," added Charlotte, with a 
demure glance at George. ^ Oh,' said Kate, ^ it's proper enough, poor 
sick fellow : it would never do to disappoint him.' Therefore, sir, 
please take care that you behave properly, considering that a young 
lady is your hostess." 

She threw a laughing glance at George ; and, sitting down at the 
table, took a pack of beautifully painted cards from an ivory box, and 
began that delectable game that the French call " Patience." George 
watched her from the sofa where he was sitting. A certain thought 
had darted into his mind. What fit of prudence called it up? Did he 
think of Charlotte's good ? — or of his own ? Did the recollection of 
what Cecil had whispered actuate him? It cannot be told. It was 
very far indeed from George Godolphin's intention to make a wife of 
Charlotte Pain, and he may have deemed it well to avoid all situations 
where he might compromise himself by a hasty word. Such words 
are more easily dropped than taken up again. Or perhaps George, 
free and careless though he was, reflected that it was not altogether 
the thing for Charlotte Pain to entertain him alone. With all his 
faults, George Godolphin was a gentleman : and Charlotte was not 
altogether fitted for a gentleman's wife. 

" I am glad of it, Charlotte," he remarked. " I shall now have to 
make excuses to one only, instead of to two. I came to ask Mrs. 
Verrall to allow me to break through my engagement." 

Charlotte had a knave in her hand, pondering where she could place 
it. She dropped it in her surprise. 

" I must dine at home to-day, Charlotte. An old friend of my 
father and mother's, Mrs. Briscow, is arriving for dinner. I cannot be 
absent." 

The flush deepened on Charlotte's face. " It is unkind of you ! " 
she resentfully said. " But I knew before what your promises are 
worth." 

"Unkind? But, Charlotte, I did not know until this morning that 
Mrs. Briscow was coming to-day. There's nothing unkind about it." 

" It is unkind ! " flashed Charlotte. "If you were not unkind, you 
would not leave me here alone, to pass a solitary evening and play at 
this wretched ' patience.' " 

" But I am not going to leave you here. I wish to take you back 
with me to Ashlydyat to dinner. If you will put on your bonnet, we 
can be walking thither at once." 

" You did not come intending to ask me." 

" I did not. I did not know that Mrs. Verrall would be absent. 
But I ask you now, being alone as you say. And I intend to take 
you." 



132 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLVDYAf. 



" What will Miss Godolphin say ? " 

" Miss Godolphin will be very happy to see you." Which little as* 
sertion Mr. George knew to contain more politeness than truth. "Will 
you get ready, Charlotte ? I must be returning." 

Charlotte pushed the cards from her in a heap, and came and stood 
before George Godolphin, turning herself about for his inspection. 
" Shall I do without further embellishment ? " she asked. 

" Admirably," was the gallant answer. " Why dress more for Ash- 
lydyat than you would for home?" 

Charlotte marched to the glass and surveyed herself. " Just some- 
thing in my hair," she said, ringing the bell. 

A maid came in by her desire, and fastened some blue and silver 
flowers in her hair. Charlotte Pain wore her hair capriciously : rarely 
two days alike. To-day it was all strained back from the face, that 
most trying of all styles, let the features be ever so pretty. A shawl 
was thrown over her shoulders, and then she turned to George. 

" I am ready now." 

" But your bonnet ? " returned that gentleman, who had looked on 
with laughing eyes at the mysteries of the hair-dressing. 

" I shall not put on a bonnet," she said. " They can bring it to me 
to Ashlydyat, for returning at night. People won't meet us : the road's 
not a public road. And if they should meet us," she added, laughing, 
" they will rejoice in the opportunity of seeing me abroad like this. It 
will be food for Prior's Ash." 

So they started. Charlotte would not take his arm : she said he 
must take hers : he needed support and she did not. That, George would 
not agree to : and they strolled on, side by side, resting on benches 
occasionally. George found he had not much to boast of yet, in the 
way of strength. 

"Who's this, coining up?" exclaimed Charlotte, when they had 
almost gained Ashlydyat, and were resting for the last time. 

George followed the direction of her eyes. Advancing towards 
Ashlydyat was a lady, her grey silk dress gleaming in the sun, a light 
Cashmere shawl folded round her. There was no mistaking the lady- 
like figure of Mrs. Hastings. 

" Is she to be one of your dinner-party ? " 

" Not that I am aware of." 

Mrs. Hastings joined them. She sat down on a bench by George's 
side, affectionately inquiring into his state of health, speaking kindly 
and truthfully her pleasure at seeing him, so far, well again. What- 
ever prejudice may have been taken against George Godolphin by 
the Rector of All Souls', it did not extend to his wife. She liked him 
much. 

" I am getting on famously," said George, in a merry tone. " I have 
promoted myself now to one stick : until yesterday I was forced to use 
two. You are going to Ashlydyat, Mrs. Hastings?" 

" I wish to say a few words to Bessy. We have discovered some- 
thing unpleasant relating to one of the schools, in which the under- 
mistress is mixed up. A good deal of deceit has been going on, in 
fact. Mr. Hastings says Bessy ought to hear of it at once, for she was 
as much interested in it as we are. So I came up." 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 



133 



Mrs. Hastings, in speaking, had taken two or three glances at 
Charlotte's head. That young lady set herself to explain. Mr. George 
Godolphin had given her an impromptu invitation to go back with him 
to dine at Ashlydyat. 

Then George explained. He had been engaged to dine at the Folly : 
but found, on arriving, that Mrs. Verrall had departed for London. 
" My friends are all kind to me, Mrs. Hastings," he observed. " They 
insist upon it that a change of a few hours must benefit me, and en- 
cumber themselves with the trouble of a fanciful invalid." 

" I am sure there's nothing like change and amusement for one 
growing convalescent," said Charlotte. 

"Will you let us contribute in some little way toit.'^" asked Mrs. 
Hastings of George. " If a few hours' sojourn in our quiet house 
would be agreeable to you, you know that we should only be too happy 
for you to try it. " 

" I should like it of all things," cried George, impulsively. " I can- 
not walk far yet without resting, and it is pleasant to sit a few hours 
at my walk's end, before I begin to start back again. I shall soon 
extend my journeys to Prior*s Ash." 

" Then come to us the first day that you feel able to get as far. You 
will always find some of us at home. We will dine at any hour you 
like, and you shall choose your own dinner." 

" A bargain," said George. 

They rose to pursue their way to Ashlydyat. Mrs. Hastings offered 
her arm to George, and he took it with thanks. "He would not take 
mine ! " thought Charlotte, and she flashed an angry glance at him. 

The fact was, that for some considerable time Charlotte Pain had 
put Maria Hastings almost out of her head, as regarded her relations 
to George Godolphin. Whatever reason she may have seen at Broom- 
head to believe he was attached to Maria, the impression had since 
faded away. In the spring, before his illness, George had been much 
more with her than with Maria. This was not entirely George's fault : 
the Rectory did not court him : Charlotte Pain and the Folly did. A 
week had now passed since Mr. Verrall's departure for town, when 
George and his sticks appeared at the Folly for the first time after his 
illness ; and, not a day of that week since but George and Charlotte 
had met. Altogether, her hopes of winning the prize had gone up to 
enthusiastic heat ; and Charlotte believed the greatest prize in the 
world — taking all his advantages collectively — to be George Godolphin. 
George went at once to his sister Janet's chamber. She was in it, dressing 
for dinner, after bringing her aged guest, Mrs. Briscow, from the station. 
He knocked at the door with his stick, and was told to enter. 

Janet was before the glass in her black silk dress, trimmed heavily 
with crape still. She was putting on her sober cap, a white one, with 
black ribbons. Janet Godolphin had taken to wear caps at thirty years 
of age : her hair, like Thomas's, was thin ; and she was not troubled 
with cares of making herself appear younger than she was. 

" Come in, George," she said, turning to him without any appearance 
of surprise. 

" See how good I am, Janet ! " he cried, throwing himself wearily 
into a chair. " I have come back to dine with you." 



134 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



I saw you from the window. You have been walking too far ! " 
" Only to the Folly and back. But I sauntered about, looking at the 
flowers, and that tires one far worse than bearing on steadily." 

" Ay. Lay yourself down on that couch at full length, lad. Mrs. 
Hastings is here, I see. And — was that other Charlotte Pain?" 
Yes," replied George, disregarding the injunction to lie down. 
" Did she come from the Folly in that guise ? — Nothing on her head 
but those flowers ? I could see no bonnet even in her hand." 

It is to be sent after her. Janet" — passing quickly from the other 
matter — ^' she has come to dine with us." 

Miss Godolphin turned in amazement, and fixed her eyes reproach- 
fully on George. To dine with us ? — to-day ? Have you been asking 
her?" 

" Janet, I could not well help myself. When I got to Lady Godol- 
phin's Folly, I found Charlotte alone : Mrs. Verrall has departed for 
town. To break through my engagement there, I proposed that Char- 
lotte should come here," 

Nay," said Janet, your engagement was already broken, if Mrs. 
Verrall was away." 

Not so. Charlotte expected me to remain." 
" Herself your sole entertainer?" 
I suppose so." 

A severe expression arose to Miss Godolphin's lips, and remained 
there. ^' It is most unsuitable, Charlotte Pain's being here to-day," 
she resumed. " The changes which have taken place render our 
meeting with Mrs. Briscow a sad one ; no stranger ought to be at 
table. Least of all, Charlotte Pain. Her conversation is at times un- 
feminine." 

" How can you say so, Janet ? " he involuntarily exclaimed. 

" Should she launch into some of her favourite topics, her horses 
and her dogs, it will sound unfeminine to Mrs. Briscow's ears. In her 
young days — in 7/zy days also, George, for the matter of that — these 
subjects were deemed more suitable to men's lips than to young 
women's. George, had your mother lived, it would have been a sore 
day to her, the one that brought the news that you had fixed your rnind 
on Charlotte Pain." 

It was not so to my father, at any rate," George could not help saying. 

''And was it possible that you did not see how Charlotte Pain 
played her cards before your father ? " resumed Janet. '' Not a word, 
that could offend his prejudices as a refined gentleman, did she ever 
suffer herself to utter. I saw ; if you did not." 

" You manage to see a great deal that the rest of us don't see, Janet. 
Or you fancy that you do." 

'' It is no fancy, lad. I would not like to discourage a thing that 
you have set your heart upon ; I would rather go a mile out of my way 
than do it : but I stand next door to a mother to you, and I can but 
warn you that you will repent it, if you ever suffer Charlotte Pain to be 
more to you than she now is." 

George rose. " Set your mind at rest, Janet. It has never been my 
intention to marry Charlotte Pain : and — so far as I believe at present 
— it never will be." 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 



The dinner went off pleasantly. Mrs. Briscow was a charming old 
lady, although she was of the " antediluvian " school, and Charlotte 
was on her best behaviour, and half fascinated Mrs. Briscow. George, 
like a trespassing child, received several hints from Janet that bed 
might be desirable for him, but he ingeniously ignored them, and sat 
on. Charlotte's bonnet and an attendant arrived, and Thomas Godol- 
phin put on his hat to see her to the Folly. 

" I need not trouble you, Mr. Godolphin. I shall not be run away 

" I think it will be as well that I should see you do not," said he, 
smiling. 

It was scarcely dark. The clock had not struck ten, and the night 
was starlight. Thomas Godolphin gave her his arm, and the maid 
walked behind them. Arrived at Ashlydyat, he left her. Charlotte 
stood for a few moments, then turned on her heel and entered the 
hall. The first thing that caught her notice was a hat; next a travel- 
ling coat. They had not been there when she left in the afternoon. 

" Then VerralPs back ! " she mentally exclaimed. 

Hastening into the dining-room, she saw, seated at a table, drinking 
brandy and water, not Mr. Verrall, but Rodolf Pain. 

" Good gracious ! " exclaimed Charlotte, with more surprise in her 
tone than satisfaction, " have you come ? " 

Come to find an empty house," rejoined Mr. Pain. " Where's Mrs. 
Verrall ? They tell me she is gone to London." 

" She is," replied Charlotte. " Verrall neither came back nor wrote ; 
she had a restless fit upon her, and started off this morning to him." 

"Verrall won't thank her," observed Mr. Pain. "He is up to his 
eyes in business." 

" Good or bad business ? " asked Charlotte. 

" Both. We have got into a mess, and Verrall's not yet out of it." 

" Through what ? Through whom ? " she questioned. 

Rodolf Pain gave his shoulders a jerk, as if he had been a French- 
man. " It need not trouble you, Charlotte." 

" Some one came down here from London a week ago ; a Mr. 
Appleby. Is it through him ? Verrall seemed strangely put out at his 
coming." 

Mr. Pain nodded his head. "They were such idiots in the office as 
to give Appleby the address here. I have seen Verrall in a tolerable 
passion once or twice in my life, but I never saw him in such a one as 
he went into when he came up. They'll not forget it in a hurry. He 
lays the blame on me, remotely; says I must have left a letter about 
with the address on it. I know I have done nothing of the sort." 

" But what is it, Rodolf? Anything very bad ? " 

" Bad enough. But it can be remedied. Let Verrall alone for getting 
out of pits, however deep they may be. I wish, though, we had never 
set eyes on that fellow, Appleby ! " 
. " Tell me about it, Rodolf." . 

Mr. Rodolf dechned. " You could do no good," said he, " and busi- 
ness is not fitted for ladies' ears." 

" I don't care to know it," said Charlotte. " It's no concern of mine : 
but, somehow, that man Appleby interested me. As to business not 



136 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



being fitted tor my ears, I should make a better hand at business than 
some of you men make." 

" Upon my word, I think you would, Charlotte. I have often said it. 
But you are one in a thousand." 

" Have you had anything to eat since you came in ? " 

" They brought me some supper. It has just gone away." 

" I had better inquire whether there's a room ready for you ? " she 
remarked, moving towards the bell. 

It's all done, Charlotte. I told them I had come to stay. Just sit 
down, and let me talk to you." 
Shall you stay long ? " 

" I can't tell until I hear from Verrall to-morrow. I may be leaving 
again to-morrow night, or I may be here for interminable weeks. The 
office is to be clear of Mr. Verrall just now, do you understand ? " 

Charlotte apparently did understand. She took her seat in a chair 
listlessly enough. Something in her manner would have told an accu- 
rate observer that she could very well have dispensed with the company 
of Rodolf Pain. He, however, saw nothing of that. He took his cigar- 
case from his pocket, selected a cigar, and then, by way of sport, held 
the case out to Charlotte. 

" Will you take one ? " 

For answer, she dashed it out of his hand haix way across the room. 
And she did it in anger, too. 

" How uncertain you are ! " he exclaimed, as he rose to pick up his 
property. " There are times when you can take a joke pleasantly, and 
laugh at it." 

He sat down again, lighted his cigar, and smoked a few minutes in 
silence. Then he turned to her. " Don't you think it is time, Char- 
lotte, that you and I brought ourselves to an anchor ? " 

" No, I don't," she bluntly answered. 

" But I say it is," he resumed. " And I mean it to be done." 
" You mean ! " 

Something in the tone roused him, and he gazed at her with surprise. 
" You are not going from your promise, Charlotte ? " 

" I don\ remember that I made any distinct promise," said she. 

Mr. Rodolf Pain grew heated. " You know that you did, Charlotte. 
You know that you engaged yourself irrevocably to me " 

"Irrevocably!" she shghtingly interrupted. "How you misapply 
words ! " 

" It was as irrevocable as promise can be. Have you not led me on, 
this twelvemonth past, believing month after month that you would be 
my wife the next ? And, month after month, you have put me off upon 
the most frivolous pretexts ! " 

He rose as he spoke, drew up his little figure to its utmost height in 
his excitement, and pushed back his light hair from his small, insigni- 
ficant face. A face that betrayed not too much strength of any sort, 
physical, moral, or intellectual ; but a good-natured face withal. Char- 
lotte retained unbroken calmness. 

" Rodolf, I don't think it would do," she said, with an air of candid 
reasoning. " I have thought it over and over, and that's why I have 
put you off. It is not well that wc should all be so closely con- 



ONE STICK DISCARDED. 



137 



nected together. Better get new ties, that will shelter us, in case 
a— a " 

"A what?" asked Rudolf Pain, his eyes strained on Charlotte 
through their very light lashes. 

"In case a smash comes. That — if we are all in the same boat — • 
would ruin the lot. Better that you and I should form other connec- 
tions." 

" You are talking great nonsense," he angrily said. " A smash ! — to 
us ! Can't you trust Verrall better than that ? " 

" Why, you say that, even at this present moment- " 

" You are wrong, Charlotte," he vehemently interrupted ; " you en- 
tirely misunderstand me. Things go wrong in business temporarily ; 
they must do so in business of all sorts ; but they right themselves 
again. Why ! do you know what Verrall made last year ? " 

" A great deal." 

" My little petty share was two thousand pounds : and that is as a 
drop of water to the ocean compared with his. What has put you 
upon these foolish fancies? " 

" Prudence," returned Charlotte. 

" I don't believe it," was the plain answer. You are trying to 
blind me. You are laying yourself out for higher game ; and to shut 
my eyes, and gain time to see if you can play it out, you concoct a 
story of ' prudence ' to me. It's one or the other of those Godolphins." 

^' The Godolphins ! " mockingly repeated Charlotte. You are 
clever ! The one will never marry as long as the world lasts; the 
other's dead." 

" Dead ! " echoed Rodolf Pain. 

" As good as dead. He's like a ghost, and he is being sent off for 
an everlasting period to some warmer chmate. How ridiculous you 
are, Rodolf!" 

" Charlotte, I'll take care of ways and means. I'll take care of you 
and your interests. Only fix the time when you will be mine." 

"Then I won't, Rodolf. I don't care to marry yet awhile. I'll see 
about it when the next hunting season shall be over.'' 

Rodolf Pain opened his eyes. "The hunting season!" he cried. 
" What has that to do with it? " 

" Were you my husband, you would be forbidding me to hunt ; you 
don't like my doing it now. So for the present I'll remain mistress of 
my own actions." 

" Another lame excuse," he said, knitting his brow. " You will take 
very good care always to remain mistress of your own actions, whether 
married or single." 

Charlotte laughed, a ringing laugh of power. It spoke significantly 
enough to Mr. Rodolf Pain. He would have renewed the discussion, 
but she peremptorily declined, and shaking hands with him, wished 
him good night. 



138 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



; CHAPTER XX. 

A REVELATION TO ALL SOULS' RECTOR. 

George Godolphin was not long at availing himself of the invitation 
to All Souls' Rectory. The very day after it was given, he was on his 
way to it. He started with his stick: made one halt at a shop on his 
road, and arrived about twelve o'clock. 

Not a soul was at home but Maria. Mrs. Hastings, who had not 
expected him for some days, for she did not suppose his strength would 
allow him to get so far yet, had gone out with Grace. Mr. Hastings 
was in the church, and Maria was alone. 

She sat in that one pleasant room of the house, the long room look- 
ing to the lawn and the flower-beds. She looked so pretty, so refined, 
so quiet in her simple dress of white muslin, as she pursued her employ- 
ment, that of drawing, never suspecting how she was going to be 
interrupted. 

The iioor of the porch stood open, as it often did in summer, and 
George Godolphin entered without the ceremony of knocking. The 
hall was well matted, and Maria did not hear him cross it. A slight 
tap at the room door. 

" Come in," said Maria, supposing it to be one of the servants. 

He came in and stood in the doorway, smiling down upon her. So 
shadowy, so thin ! his face utterly pale, his dark blue eyes unnaturally 
large, his wavy hair damp with the exertion of walking. Maria's heart 
stood still. She rose from her seat, unable to speak, the colour going 
and coming in her transparent skin ; and when she quietly moved for- 
ward to welcome him, her heart found its action again, and bounded 
on in tumultuous beats. The very intensity of her emotion caused her 
demeanour to be almost unnaturally still. 
Are you glad to see me, Maria? " 

It was the first time they had met since his illness; the first time 
for more than four months. All that time separated ; all that time 
fearing he was about to be removed by death ! As he approached 
Maria, her emotion broke forth — she burst into tears; and surely it 
may be excused her. 

^ He was scarcely less agitated. He clasped her tenderly to him, and 
kissed the tears from her face, his own eyelashes glistening. There 
was no great harm in it after all ; for that each looked forward to the 
hope of being bound together at no great distance of time by nearer 
and dearer ties, was indisputable. At least no harm would have come 
of it, if Look at the window. 

They did. And there they saw the awful face of the Rector glaring 
in upon them, and by its side, the more awful of the two, that of Char- 
lotte Pain. 

Why had she followed George Godolphin to the Rectory? Was she 
determined not to allow him a single chance of escaping her? She, 
bearing in remembrance the compact with Mrs. Hastings, had watched 



A REVELATION TO ALL SOULS' RECTOR. 



139 



George Godolphin's movements that morning from the windows of the 
Folly ; had watched the by-road leading to the Rectory. She saw 
George and his stick go tottering down it : and by-and-by she put on 
her things and went out too, imperatively declining the escort of Mr. 
Rodolf Pain. 

Her intention was to make a call at the Rectory — all unconscious of 
course that she should find Mr. George Godolphin there. By dint of a 
little by-play with Mrs. Hastings — who was too thoroughly a lady to 
be given to suspicion — she might receive an invitation to remain also 
for the day. With these very laudable intentions Charlotte arrived 
opposite All Souls' Church, where she caught sight of the Reverend 
Mr. Hastings emerging from the door. She crossed the churchyard, 
and accosted him. 

" Is Mrs. Hastings at home, do you know? I am going to call upon 
her?" 

Now Charlotte was no great favourite of that gentleman's : never- 
theless, being a gentleman, he answered her courteously as he shook 
hands. He believed Mrs. Hastings and Grace were out, he said, but 
Maria was at home. 

" I am moped to death!" exclaimed Charlotte, as she and Mr. Has- 
tings entered the private gate to the Rectory garden. " Mrs. Verrall is 
gone to London, and there am I ! I came out intending to go the 
round of the town until I could find some good Samaritan or other who 
would take compassion on me, and let me stay an hour or two with 
them." 

Mr. Hastings gave no particular reply. He did not make for the 
side door of the house, his usual entrance from the church, but turned 
towards the front, that he might usher in Charlotte in state. This 
took them by the windows of the drawing-room : and there they saw 
—what has been recorded. Mr. Hastings, in his astonishment, halted : 
Charlotte halted also, as you may be very sure. 

George was the first to see them, and a word of anger broke from 
his lips. Maria hastily raised her head from its resting-place — and felt 
almost as if she should die. To be seen thus by Charlotte Pain was 
bad enough : but by her strict father ! Her face grew white. 

George Godolphin saw the signs. My darhng, only be calm ! 
Leave all to me." 

That an explanation was forced upon him somewhat prematurely, 
was undoubted. But it was no unwelcome explanation. Nay, in the 
second moment, he was deeming it the very best thing that could have 
happened : for certain visions of taking Maria with him into exile had 
crossed his brain lately. He would try hard now to get them realized. 
It is true he would have preferred, all things considered, not to speak 
before Miss Charlotte Pain : but necessity, as you know, has no law. 

The Rector came in at the door : Charlotte following. " Mr. George 
Godolphin ! " he frigidly began ; but George interrupted what he would 
have further said. 

I beg your pardon, sir," he said, taking a step forward; "allow me 
one word of explanation before you cast blame on me. I was asking 
your daughter to be my wife. Will you give her to me ? " 

Mr. Hastings looked as a man confounded. That he was intensely 



I40 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



surprised at the words was evident : perhaps he half doubted whether 
Mr. George Godolphin was playing with him. He cast a severe glance 
at Maria. George had taken her on his arm, and she stood there 
shrinking, her head drooping, her eyelashes resting on her white cheek. 
As for Charlotte Pain ? well, you should have seen her. 

Ah no, there was no deception. George was in true earnest, and 
Mr. Hastings saw that he was. His eyes were fixed beseechingly on 
those of Mr. Hastings, and emotion had brought the hectic to his 
wasted cheek. 

" Do not blame Maria, sir," he resumed. She is innocent of all 
offence, and dutiful as innocent. Were you to interpose your veto 
between us, and deny her to me, I know that she would obey you, even 
though the struggle killed her. Mr. Hastings, we have loved each 
other for some time past : and I should have spoken to you before, but 
for my illness intervening. Will you give her to me at once, and let 
her share my exile ! " 

Mr. Hastings had no insuperable objection to George Godolphin. 
That report had given Mr. George credit for bushels and bushels of 
wild oats, which he would have to sow, was certain : but in this respect 
he was no worse than many others, and marriage is supposed to be a 
cure for youthful follies. Mr. Hastings had once suspected that Maria 
was acquiring more liking for George than was good for her : hence 
his repulsion of George, for he believed that he was destined for Char- 
lotte Pain. Even now he could not comprehend how it was, and the 
prominent feeling in his mind was surprised perplexity. 

" I love her as my own life, sir. I will strive to render her happy." 

" I cannot understand it," said Mr. Hastings, dropping his tone of 
anger. " I was under the impression — I beg your pardon. Miss Pain," 
turning to her, " but I was under the impression that you were engaged 
to Mr. George Godolphin ! " 

If ever Charlotte Pain had need to fight for composure, she had dire 
need then. Her hopes were suddenly hurled to the ground, and she 
had the cruel mortification of hearing him, whom she best loved, reject 
and spurn her for a long-hated rival. If her love for George Godolphin 
was not very deep or refined — and it was neither the one nor the other 
— she did love him after a fashion ; better, at any rate, than she loved 
any one else. Th.Q posilwn she would take as George Godolphin's wife 
was hurled from her ; and perhaps Miss Charlotte cared for that more 
than she did for George himself. The Verralls and their appearance of 
wealth were all very well in their places — as George had said by the 
dogs — but what were they, compared with the ancient Godolphins ? 
There are moments which drive a woman to the verge of madness, 
and Charlotte was so driven now. Anything like control of temper was 
quite beyond her : and malevolence entered her heart. 

" I engaged to Mr. George Godolphin ! " she echoed, taking up the 
Rector's words in a shrieking tone, which she could not have helped 
had her life depended on it. " Engaged to a married man ? Thank 
you, Mr. Hastings." 

" A married manl" repeated the puzzled Rector. Whilst George 
turned his questioning eyes upon her. 

Yes, a married man," she continued, her throat working, her breath 



A REVELATION TO ALL SOtJLS' RECTOR. 141 



panting. " They may have chosen to hoodwink you, to bhnd you, Mr. 
Hastings, but I saw what I saw. When your daughter — innocent Miss 
Maria there — came home from Scotland, she had been married to 
George Godolphin. A false priest, a sort of Gretna Green man, had 
married them : and I saw it done. / engaged to George Godolphin ! " 

Charlotte Pain knew that the words were false : called up to gratify 
her rage in that angry moment. Scarcely anything else that she could 
conjure up would so have told upon the Rector, In his straightforward 
right-doing, to his practical mind, a clandestine marriage appeared one 
of the cardinal sins. His face turned pale, and his eye flashed as he 
grasped Maria's shoulder. 

" Girl! is this so?" 

"Oh, papa, no!" returned Maria, with streaming eyes. "It is a 
wicked untruth. Charlotte ! to tell such an untruth ts wicked. Papa, 
I afftrm to you " 

" Hush, Maria," interposed George, " let me deal with this. Mr. 
Hastings, it is a thing that you need scarcely ask of your daughter — 
whether it is true, or untrue. Is she one, think you, to enter into a 
clandestine marriage 1 You know better, sir. Nothing has ever passed 
between myself and Maria more than has passed before you this day. 
Were I thoughtless enough to sohcit her to enter into one — and you 
need not think of 77te a whit better than you choose — Maria would 
only repulse me. Miss Pain, will you unsay your words ? " 

For answer. Miss Pain entered into a scornful account of Sandy Bray 
and his doings. She reiterated her assertion. She declared that she 
saw Maria and George standing before him, their hands clasped togethe 
in the attitude of a couple being married, when she entered suddenly 
with a message from Lady Godolphin, and she finished up by saying 
she had always believed since that they were married, only it had been 
no business of hers to proclaim it. The Rector's brow grew moist again, 
and George Godolphin looked significantly at Charlotte. He spoke 
significantly, too. 

" No, you have not thought it, Charlotte." And he turned and related 
to Mr. Hastings as much as he knew of Sandy Bray, emphatically 
repeating his denial. " If you will take a moment's thought, sir, you 
may be convinced that the truth lies with me. I am beseeching you to 
give Maria to me ; I crave it of you as the greatest boon that I can ask 
in life. I know not whether you will yield to my petition : but, what 
argument could I urge, to induce it, with half the force of the one that 
she was already secretly my wife ? Nay, were she indeed so, why 
should I care for the ceremony to be repeated 1 I should only have 
to confess it, and throw myself and my wife upon your forgiveness. 
I heartily wish it had been so 1 " 

" You are bold, Mr. George Godolphin ! " 

" Bold, sir? " returned George, with emotion. " Not more bold than 
I ought to be. I don't care to defend myself, but I do care to defend 
Maria. Give her to me, Mr. Hastings ! give her to me! " he added, 
changing his tone to one of tender entreaty. " I will defend her through 
lite with my best blood." 

Mr. Hastings looked at him ; looked at the tearful, but certainly not 
guilty countenance of his daughter; turned and looked at the furious 



142 



the: shadow of ashlydyat. 



one of Charlotte Pain. Step this way/' he said to George Godolphin. 
I would speak to you alone." 

He took him to another room, and shut the door. I want the truth," 
he said, upon one or two points " 

" Mr. Hastings," said George, drawing himself up, I have told you 
nothing but the truth upon all points." 

I Were you never engaged to Charlotte Pain ? " proceeded Mr. 
Hastings, taking no notice of the interruption. 

Never. I never sought or wished to be." 
" Then what did your good father, Sir George, mean, when he alluded 
to it the night he was dying He asked if you and Charlotte were 
married yet, and you replied, ^ Plenty of time for that.' " 

I said it merely in answer to his words : it was not an hour for 
dissent or explanation. He was not conscious of what he said." 

Had you expressed to him any particular liking for Charlotte 
Pain?" 

I had not ; at any time. Sir George believed Miss Pain had a 
large fortune, and he recommended me, more than once, to think of 
her, and it. He said she was a handsome girl, and none the worse for 
possessing a fortune. He had heard she would have thirty thousand 
pounds. I used to laugh it off. I cared for Maria too much to cast a 
thought to Charlotte Pain. That is the whole truth, Mr. Hastings, on 
my honour." 

" Would he have objected to Maria ? " 

" To Maria I am certain he would not have objected. To her want 
of fortune he might. But that is a thing that only concerns myself. I 
do not require fortune with my wife, and I do not seek it. You will give 
her to me, Mr. Hastings? You will dispense with unnecessary ceremony, 
and let her go abroad with me?" he urged. ''She will do me more 
good than all else." 

" I will give you no promise of any sort, Mr. George Godolphin. As 
to taking her abroad with you, it is absurd to think of it. And no 
daughter of mine shall enter a family where she is not sure of a hearty 
welcome. I must first know the sentiments of yours." 

George looked radiant. " Mr. Hastings, if they heartily welcome 
Maria, will you allow me to welcome her ? " 

"Possibly I may." 

" Then it is an affair decided. Janet will be relieved of a nightmare ; 
and Maria is, I believe, Thomas's prime favourite in all the world, now 
that Ethel is gone." 

" Of what nightmare will it relieve Miss Godolphin ? " inquired the 
Rector. 

^ A smile crossed George's lips. " She, like you, has been fearing that 
I intended to connect myself with Charlotte Pain. Only yesterday I 
assured Janet that she was mistaken ; but I scarcely think she placed 
entire faith in me. She does not like Miss Pain." 

t "Do you think you have pursued a wise course in giving cause for 
this talk, regarding Miss Pain ? " 

f " I have not given cause to Miss Pain herself, Mr. Hastings," rephed 
George, warmly. " I am convinced that she has known in her heart of 
my attachment to Maria. As to whiling away a few hours with her 



A REVELATION TO ALL SOULS^ RECTOR. 143 



occasionally in idle talk, it is a pastime that Charlotte Pain is given to 
favour." 

" And myself also," Mr. George might have added. 

They left the room together. A servant came up to Mr. Hastings as 
he was crossing the hall, and said an applicant at the door craved speech 
of him. The Rector turned to it, and George entered the drawing-room 
alone. 

Maria stood, pale, anxious, excited, leaning against a corner of the 
window, half shrouded by the muslin curtains. She scarcely dared 
look up when George entered. It was not his gaze that she dreaded to 
meet, but that of Mr. Hastings. To anger or displease her father was 
wormwood to Maria. 

George cast a glance round the room. ^' Where's Charlotte Pain ? " 
he asked. 

" She is gone," was Maria's answer. Oh, George ! " clasping her 
hands, and lifting to him her streaming eyes : ''it was cruel of her to 
say what she did ! " 

" I could give it a better name than that, Maria. Never mind : we 
can afford to be generous to-day." 

'' Is papa fully convinced that — that I do not deserve blame ?" 

''He was convinced of that before he left this room. You are to be 
mine, Maria," he softly added in a whisper. " And very shortly. I must 
take you abroad with me." 

She stood before him, not daring to look up now : shrinking from his 
ardent gaze, the crimson mantling to her pure cheek. 

" Mr. Hastings demurs at the haste ; calls it absurd," continued 
George ; " but, if you will consent to waive ceremony, surely he may 
do so. Which would be more absurd, Maria? your marrying without 
the three months' preparation for millinery deemed necessary by 
fashion, or my going away alone for an indefinite period, perhaps to 
die." 

" Not to die, George ! " she involuntarily answered in a tone painfully 
beseeching — as if he held the fiat of life or death in his own hands. 

" But — about the haste — I don't know I heard you thought of 

departing soon ? " 

*' I ought to be away in a fortnight's time." 

That startled her. " A fortnight's time! " she echoed, in a voice of 
alarm. " Then it could not be. What would Prior's Ash say 1 " 

" Maria," he gravely answered, " some nine months ago, when Sarah 
Anne Grame was seized with fever, my brother, alarmed for Ethel's 
safety, would have married her hastily, so that he might have the right 
to remove her from danger. Ethel's answer to him was, ' What would 
Prior's Ash say ' — as you have now answered me. Thomas bowed to 
it: he suffered the world's notions to reign paramount — and he lost 
Ethel. What value do you suppose he sets now upon the opinions of 
Prior's Ash ? The cases may not be precisely parallel, but they are 
sufficiently so to decide me. If I go away from home, I take you : if 
I may not take you, I do not go. And now, my darling, I will say 
farewell to you for the present." 

She was surprised. She thought he had come to stay for some 
hours. 



144 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Yes," he replied ; but affairs have changed since I entered. Until 
they shall be more definitively settled, Mr. Hastings will not care that 
I remain his guest." 

He bent to kiss her. Not in the stolen manner he had been accus- 
tomed to, but — quietly, gravely, turning her shy face to his, as if it were 
his legal province so to do. " A little while, young lady," he saucily 
whispered, " and you will be giving me kiss for kiss." 

Mr. Hastings was in the porch still, holding a colloquy with ill- 
doing and troublesome Mrs. Bond. George held out his hand as he 
passed. 

" You have not rested yourself," said the Rector. 

" I shall get back as far as the bank and rest there," replied George. 
" I presume, sir, that you intend to see my brother ? " 

" And also Miss Godolphin," curtly said the Rector. 

His eyes followed George down the path to the gate, as he and his 
stick moved unsteadily along. Marry now ! " mentally cried Mr. 
Hastings, his brow contracting: "he looks more fit to take to his bed, 
and keep it. Now, Mrs. Bond," he added aloud, " let me hear tho 
conclusion of this fine tale." 

George took his way to the bank. He had not passed it in coming, 
having cut across from Ashlydyat by the nearer way at the back of the 
town. He took them by surprise. Mr. Crosse was out, but the clerks 
were warm in their congratulations ; they had not believed him yet 
equal to the exertion. 

" You look very tired," said Thomas, when they were alone in the 
bank parlour. 

" I feel fagged to death," was George's answer. " I must get you to 
send out for a fly for me, and go home in that. Thomas," he continued, 
plunging into his business abruptly, " I expect you will have an 
appHcation made to you, regarding me." 

"In what way ? " quietly asked Thomas. 

" Well — it is not exactly a certificate of character that's required," 
returned George, with a smile. " I — I am thinking of getting married. 
Will you approve of it ? " 

" I have no right to disapprove," said Thomas, in a kind, grave 
tone. " You are your own master ; free to act as you shall judge best. 
I only hope, George, that you will, in choosing, consider your future 
happiness." 

" Has it never occurred to you that I have chosen ?" 

" I used to think at times that you had chosen, or felt inclined to 
choose, Maria Hastings." 

" Right," said George. " I have been speaking to Mr. Hastings, and 
it appears to have taken him entirely by surprise. He would give me 
no answer until he should have ascertained whether the alliance would 
be agreeable to you and Janet. He is a man of crotchets, you know. 
So I expect he will be coming to you, Thomas." 

Thomas Godolphin's eyes lighted up with pleasure. "He shall 
receive my hearty approval," he said, warmly. " George " — changing 
his tone to sadness — " in the days gone by I thought there were 
two young beings superior to the rest of the world : Ethel and Maria." 

" I said so to Mr. Hastings. I conclude he fears that Maria's want 



A REVELATION TO ALL SOULS' RECTOR. 145 



of fortune would render her unpalatable to my family," remarked 
George. 

" Certainly not to me. Ethel, whom I chose, had even less. If you 
think well to dispense with fortune in your wife, George, we have no 
right to object to it. I am glad that you have chosen Maria 
Hastings." 

But there was Janet yet to come. George went home in a fly, and 
threw himself on the first sofa he could find. Janet, full of concern, 
came to him. 

" I said you were attempting too much, George ! " she cried. " But 
you never will listen to me." 

" I'm sure, Janet, I listen to you dutifully. I have come home to 
consult you now," he added, a little spirit of mischief dancing in his gay 
blue eyes. " It is not fatigue or ilhiess that has brought me. Janet, I 
am going to be married." 

Janet Godolphin's pulses beat more quickly. She sat down and folded 
her hands with a gesture of pain. " I knew it would be so. You need 
not have tried to deceive me yesterday, lad." 

" But the young lady's friends refuse her to me, unless my family 
openly sanction and approve of the match," went on George. " You'll 
be kindly over it, won't you, Janet? " 

" No, lad. I cannot forbid it ; I have no authority over you : but, 
sanction it, I never will. What has put it into your head to marry in 
this haste 1 You, with one foot in the grave, as may be said, and one 
out of it } " 

" Well, you see, Janet, you won't trust me abroad without some one 
to look after me," he slowly answered, as if he were arguing some 
momentous question. ^' You say you can't go, and Bessy can't go, and 
Cecil may not, and I say I won't have Margery. What was I to do, 
but marry? I cannot take a young lady, you know, without first 
marrying her." 

Janet Godolphin's grave eyes were fixed on vacancy, and her thin 
lips drawn in to pressure. She did not answer. 

" Thomas heartily approves," he continued. " I have been with him." 

" Thomas must do as he likes," said Janet. " But, unless you have 
unwittingly misunderstood him, George, you are telling me a deliberate 
falsehood. He will never approve of your marrying Charlotte Pain." 

" Charlotte Pain ! " repeated George, with an air of as much surprise 
as if it were genuine, who was talking about Charlotte Pain ? What 
put her into your head ? " 

Janet's face flushed. " Were j<?/^ not talking of Charlotte Pain?" 

" Not I," said George. " In spite of the compliments you pay my 
truthfulness, Janet, I meant what I said to you yesterday — that I did 
not intend to make her my wife. I am speaking of Maria Hastings." 

" Eh, lad, but that's good news ! " 

George burst into a laugh. " What green geese you must all have 
been, Janet! Had you used your eyes, you might have detected this 
long time past that my choice was fixed on Maria. But the Rector 
doubts whether you will approve. He will not promise her to me until 
he has your sanction.** 

" I'll put my shawl on and go down at once to the Rectory, and tell 

The Shadow of Ash'A^'-.^.yat. 10 



146 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



him that we all love Maria," said Janet, more impulsively than was 
common with her : but in truth she had been relieved from a great 
fear. There was something about Charlotte Pain that frightened sedate 
Janet. Compared with her, Maria Hastings appeared everything that 
was desirable as a wife for George. Her want of fortune, her want of 
position — which was certainly not equal to that of the Godolphins — 
were lost sight of. 

I could manage to take some broth, Janet," cried George, as she 
was leaving the room. I have had nothing since breakfast." 

"To be sure. I am growing forgetful. Margery shall wait upon 
you, my dear. But, to go down to the Rectory without delay, is a 
courtesy due from me." 

So, no impediment was placed upon the marriage. Neither was any 
impediment placed upon its immediate celebration ; the Rector per- 
mitting himself to be persuaded into it. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

charlotte's bargain. 

Three weeks after that momentous day at All Souls' Rectory, George 
Godolphin and Maria stood before the Rector in All Souls' Church. 
George did not appear very ill now ; he was not so shadowy, his fine 
complexion had returned, and stick the second was discarded. Maria 
was beautiful. Her soft bridal robes floated around her, her colour 
went and came as she glanced shyly up at George Godolphin. A 
handsome couple; a couple seldom seen. 

It was quite a private marriage so to say ; but few guests being 
present, and they relatives, or very close friends. Lady Godolphin had 
responded to the invitation (which Janet had not expected her to do), 
and was the guest of Ashlydyat. Very superb was she in silks and 
jewels this day. Old Mrs. Briscow had also remained for it. Mr. 
Crosse was present, and some relatives of the Hastings family : and 
Grace and Cecil were bridesmaids. The Rector joined their hands, 
speaking the necessary words slowly and emphatically ; words that 
bound them to each other until death. 

Then came the breakfast at the Rectory, and then the going away. 
The carriage waited at the gate. The Rector laid his hand upon 
George Godolphin's arm as he was going out to it, and addressed him 
in a low tone. 

" I have confided her to you in entire trust. You will cherish her 
in all love and honour ? " 

" Always ! " emphatically pronounced George, grasping the Rector's 
hand. You shall never have cause to repent the gift." 

Thomas Godolphin was placing Maria in the carriage. She looked 
out through her tears, nodding her last adieus. George took his 
place beside her, and the postboy started on the first stage towards 
Dover. 

As they were passing the house of Lady Sarah Grame, by which 



CHARLOTTE'S BARGAIN. 



147 



their route lay, that lady herself sat at the window, as did also Sarah 
Anne ; both on the tiptoe of curiosity, beyond all doubt. Between 
them, laughing and talking with a gay air, and looking out, stood 
Charlotte Pain, Maria gave vent to an involuntary exclamation. 

Another moment, and they had whirled by, beyond view. George 
turned impulsively to Maria and drew her closer to him. "Thank 
God ! thank God ! " he earnestly said. 

" For what ? " she murmured. 

" That j/^^ are mine. Maria, I dreamt last night that I had married 
Charlotte Pain, and that you were dying. The dream has been haunt- 
ng me all day. I can laugh at it now, thank God ! " 

In the gayest and Hghtest room of Lady Godolphin's Folly, its 
windows open to the green slopes, the gay flowers, the magnificent 
prospect which swept the horizon in the distance, was Mrs. VerralL 
She lay back in a fauteuil^ in the vain, idle, listless manner favoured 
by her ; toying with the ribbons of her tasty dress, with the cluster of 
gleaming trifles on her watch-chain, with her gossamer handkerchief, 
its lace so fine in texture that unobservant eyes could not tell where 
the cambric ended and the lace began, with her fan which lay beside 
her, tapping her pretty foot upon an ottoman in some impatience; 
there she sat, displaying her conscious charms, and waiting for any 
callers, idle and vain as herself, who might arrive to admire them. 

At a distance, in another fauietiil, listless and impatient also, sat 
Rodolf Pain. Time hung heavily on Mr. Pain's hands just now. He 
was kept a sort of prisoner at Lady Godolphin's Folly, and it appeared 
to be the chief business of Charlotte Pain's life to be cross to him. 
Three weeks had his sojourn there lasted : and though he had hinted 
to Charlotte on his arrival that he might remain a goodly number 
of weeks — interminable weeks, was the expression, I think — he had 
not really expected to do so ; and the delay was chafing him. What 
particular business might be keeping Mr. Pain at Prior's Ash it is not 
our province at present to inquire : what his especial motive might be 
for rather shunning observation than courting it, is no affair of ours. 
He did not join Mrs. Verrall in her visiting : he had an innate dislike 
to visitors — to " fine people,'^ as he phrased it. Even now, if any carriage 
drove up and deposited its freight at the Folly, it would be the signal 
for Mr. Rodolf Pain to walk out of the drawing-room. He was shy, 
and had not been accustomed to society. He strolled in and out all day 
in his restlessness, nearly unnoticed by Mrs. Verrall, fidgeting Charlotte 
Pain ; a cigar in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets ; sauntering 
about the grounds, flinging himself into chairs, one sentence of com- 
plaint for ever on his lips : " I wish to goodness Verrall would write ! " 

But Verrall did not write. Mrs. Verrall had received one or two 
short notes from him after her return from London — where she had 
stayed but twenty-four hours — and all the allusion in them to Mr. 
Pain had been, " Tell Rodolf he shall hear from me as soon as possible." 
Rodolf could only wait with what patience he might, and feel himself 
like a caged tiger, without its fierceness. There was no fierceness 
about Rodolf Pain — timidity rather than that. 

A timidity for which Charlotte despised him. Had he been more 
bold and self-asserting, she might have accorded him greater respect. 



148 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



What could have possessed Charlotte ever to engage herself to Rodolf 
Pain, would be a mystery for curious minds to solve, only that such 
mysteries are enacted every day. Engagements and marriages appa- 
rently the most incongruous take place. This much may be said for 
Charlotte : that let her enter into what engagement she might, she 
would keep it or break it, just as whim or convenience suited her, 
Rodolf Pain's thoughts, as he sat in that chair, were probably turned 
to this very fact, for he broke the silence suddenly by a pertinent 
question to Mrs. Verrall. 

Does she never mean to marry ? " 
Who t " languidly asked Mrs. Verrall. 

" Charlotte, of course. I have nothing to do with anybody else, that 
I should ask. She faithfully promised to be my wife : you know she 
did, Mrs. Verrall " 

" Don't talk to me, Rodolf," apathetically interrupted Mrs. Verrall. 
" As if I should interfere between you and Charlotte ! 

" I think you are in league together to snub me, Mrs. Verrall, she 
and you; that's what I think," grumbled Rodolf. " If I only remind 
her of her promise, she snaps my nose off. Are we to be married, or 
are we not?'* 

" It is no affair of mine, I say," said Mrs. Verrall, and I shall not 
make it one. I had as soon Charlotte married you, as not ; but I am 
not going to take an active part in urging it — probably only to be 
blamed afterwards. This is all I can say, and if you tease me more, 
Rodolf, I shall trouble you to walk into another room." 

Thus repulsed, Rodolf Pain held his tongue. He turned about in 
his chair, stretched out his feet, drew them in again, threw up his 
arms with a prolonged yawn, and altogether proved that he was going 
wild for want of something to do. Presently he began again. 

" Where's she off to?" 

" Charlotte ? cried Mrs. Verrall. " She went into Prior's Ash. She 
said — ^yes, I think she said, she should call upon Lady Sarah Grame. 
Look there ! " 

Mrs. Verrall rose from her seat, and ran to a farther window, whence 
she gained a better view of the high-road, leading from Ashlydyat to 
Prior's Ash. A chariot-and-four was passing slowly towards the town. 
Its postboys wore white favours, and Margery and a manservant 
were perched outside. Mrs. Verrall knew that it was the carriage 
destined to convey away George Godolphin and his bride, who were 
at that moment seated at the breakfast at All Souls' Rectory, chief 
amidst the wedding guests. 

" Then Margery does go abroad with them ! " exclaimed Mrs. 
Verrall. " The servants had so many conflicting tales, that it was 
impossible to know which to believe. She goes as Mrs. George's 
maid, I suppose, and to see after him and his rheumatism." 

" His rheumatism's well, isn't it ? " returned Rodolf Pain. 

" That is well ; but he's not. He is weak as water, needing care 
still. Prudent Janet does well to send Margery. What should Maria 
Hastings know about taking care of the sick? I think they have 
shown excessively bad manners not to invite me to the breakfast," con-- 
tinued Mrs. Verrall, in a tone of acidity. 



CHARLOTTE'S BARGAIN. 



149 



^' Some one said it was to be quite a private breakfast : confined to 
relatives." 

I don't care," said Mrs. Verrall ; " they might have made an excep- 
tion in my favour. They know I hke such things : and we hved 
in their house, Ashlydyat, and are now hving at Lady Godolphin^s 
Folly." 

^' That's where Charlotte's gone, I'll lay," cried Mr. Rodolf Pain. 

Mrs. Verrall turned her eyes upon him with a slight accession of 
wonder in them. " Gone there ! To the Rectory ? Nonsense, Rodolf! " 

" I didn't say to the Rectory, Mrs. Verrall. She wouldn't be so stupid 
as to go there without an invitation. She's gone about the town, to 
stare at the carriages, and look out for what she can see." 

" Very possibly," returned Mrs. Verrall, throwing herself into her 
chair in weariness. " What has become of all the people to-day, that 
no one comes to call upon me ? I should think they are stopping to 
look at the wedding." 

Rodolf, in weariness as great, slowly lifted his body out of the 
chair, gave himself another stretch, and left the room. The curse 
of work ! Never did work bring a curse half as great as that brought 
by idleness. Better break stones on the road, better work in galley- 
chains, than sit through the livelong day, day after day as the year 
goes round, and be eaten up by lassitude. Rodolf Pain's compulsory 
idleness was only temporary ; he was away from his occupation only 
for a time ; but Mrs. Verrall possessed no occupation from year's end 
to year's end. Her hands had no duties to perform, no labour to trans- 
act : she never touched anything in the shape of ornamental work ; she 
rarely, if ever, opened a book. She was one of those who possess no 
resources within themselves : and, may Heaven have mercy upon all 
such ! 

By-and-by, after Rodolf had smoked two cigars outside, and had 
lounged in again, pretty nearly done to death with the effort to kill 
tmie, Charlotte returned. She came in at the open window, apparently 
in the highest spirits, her face sparkhng. 

" Did you hear the bells 1 " asked she. 

" I did," answered Rodolf. I heard them when I was out just 
now." 

"The town's quite in a commotion," Charlotte resumed. " Half the 
ragamuffins in the place are collected round the Rectory gates : they 
had better let the beadle get amongst them ! " 

" Commotion or no commotion, I know I have not had a soul to 
call here!" grumbled Mrs. Verrall. "Where have you been, Char- 
lotte?" 

" At Lady Sarah's. And I have had the great honour of seeing the 
bride and bridegroom ! " went on Charlotte, in a tone of complaisance 
so intense as to savour of mockery. " They came driving by in their 
carriage, and we had full view of them." 

This somewhat aroused Mrs. Verrall from her listlessness. " They 
have started, then ! How did she look, Charlotte ? " 

" Look ! " cried Charlotte. " She looked as she usually looks, for all 
I saw. His cheeks were hectic ; I could see that. Mr. George must 
take care of himself yet, I fancy." 



150 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 

" How was she dressed ? " questioned Mrs. Verrall again. 

" Could I see ? — seated low in the carriage, as she was, and leaning 
back in it ! " retorted Charlotte. " She wore a white bonnet and veil, and 
that's all I can tell you. Margery and Pearce were with them. Kate, 
don't you think Lady Sarah must /eel this day.'* A few months ago, 
and it was her daughter who was on the point of marriage with a 
Godolphin. But she did not seem to think of it. She'd give her head 
for a daughter of hers to wed a Godolphin still.'' 

Mrs. Verrall raised her eyes to Charlotte's with an expression of 
simple astonishment. The remark mystified her. Mrs. Verrall could 
boast little depth of any sort, and never saw half as far as Charlotte 
did. Charlotte resumed. 

" / saw ; / know : I have seen and known ever since Ethel died. 
My lady would like Sarah Anne to take Ethel's place with Thomas 
Godolphin." 

" I can hardly believe that, Charlotte." 

^' Disbelieve it then," equalDly responded Charlotte, as she passed out 
to the terrace, and began calling to her dogs. They came noisily up in 
answer, and Charlotte disappeared with them. 

And Mr. Rodolf Pain, sitting there in his embroidered chair, with a 
swelling heart, remarked that Charlotte had not vouchsafed the smallest 
notice to him. " I wouldn't stop another hour," he murmured to himself, 
" only that my going back would put up Verrall ; and — and it might 
not do." 

Very intense was that gentleman's surprise to see, not two minutes 
after, Mr. Verrall himself enter the room by the window. Mrs. Verrall 
gave a little shriek of astonishment ; and the new-comer, throwing his 
summer overcoat upon a chair, shook hands with his wife, and gave 
her a kiss. Plenty of dust was mingled with his yellow whiskers, and 
his moustache. 

" I came third-class most of the way," explained Mr. Verrall, as an 
apology for the dust. " The first-class carriage was stuffing hot, and 
there was no getting a smoke in it. We had a troublesome guard : the 
fellow excused himself by saying one of the directors was in the train." 

" I have been all this time rubbing my eyes to find out whether they 
are deceiving me," cried Rodolf Pain. Who was to dream of seeing 
you here to-day, sir ? " 

I should think you expected to see me before, Rodolf," was Mr. 
Verrall's answer. 

" Well, so I did. But it seemed to be put ofY so long, that I am sur- 
prised to see you now. Is — ^is all straight ? " 

Quite straight," rephed Mr. Verrall ; " after an overwhelming 
amount of bother. You are going up to-day. Pain." 

" And not sorry to hear it, either," cried Rodolf Pain, with emphasis. 
" I am sick of having nothing to do. Is Appleby settled ? " he added, 
dropping his voice. 

Mr. Verrall gave a nod ; and, drawing Rodolf Pain to a far window, 
stood there talking to him for some minutes in an undertone. Mrs. 
Verrall, who never concerned herself with matters of business, never 
would listen to them, went out on the terrace, a pale pink parasol with 
its white fringe, held between her face and the sun. While thus stand- 



CHARLOTTE'S BARGAIN. 151 

ing, the distant bells of All Souls', which had been ringing occasional 
peals throughout the day, smote faintly upon her ear. She went in 
again. 

"Verrall," said she, "if you come out, you can hear the bells. Do 
you know what they are ringing for ? " 

" What bells ? Why should I listen to them ? " inquired Mr. Verrall, 
turning from Rodolf Pain. 

"They are ringing for George Godolphin's wedding. He has been 
married to-day." 

The information appeared — as Rodolf Pain would have expressed it, 
had he given utterance to his sentiments — to strike Mr. Verrall all of a 
heap. " George Godolphin married to-day ! " he repeated, in profound 
astonishment, remembering the weak state George had been in when 
he had left Prior's Ash, some weeks before. " Married or buried, do 
you mean " 

Mrs. Verrall laughed. "Oh, he has got well from his illness: or, 
nearly so," she said. " The bells would ring muffled peals, if he were 
buried, Verrall, as they did for Sir George." 

" And whom has he married ? " continued Mr. Verrall, not in the least 
getting over his astonishment. 

" Maria Hastings." 

Mr. Verrall stroked his yellow moustache ; a somewhat recent 
appendage to his beauty. He was by no means a demonstrative man 
— except on rare occasions — and though the tidings evidently made a 
marked impression on him, he said nothing. "Is Charlotte at the 
wedding ? " he casually asked. 

"No strangers were invited," replied Mrs. Verrall. " Lady Godol- 
phin came for it, and is staying at Ashlydyat. She has put off her 
weeds for to-day, and appears in colours : glad enough, I know, of the 
excuse for doing so." 

" Where is Charlotte ? " resumed Mr. Verrall. 

He happened to look at Rodolf Pain as he spoke, and the latter an- 
swered, pointing tov/ards some trees on the right. 

" She went down there with her dogs. I'll go and find her." 

Mr. Verrall watched him away, and then turned to his wife : speak- 
ing, however, impassively still. 

" You say he has married Maria Hastings ? How came Charlotte to 
let him slip through her fingers ? " 

" Because she could not help it, I suppose," replied Mrs. Verrall, 
shrugging her pretty shoulders. " I never thought Charlotte had any 
chance with George Godolphin, Maria Hastings being in the way. 
Had Charlotte been first in the field, it might have made all the 
difference. He had fallen in love with Maria Hastings before he ever 
saw Charlotte." 

Mr. Verrall supercihously drew down his lips at the corners. " Don't 
talk about a man's ^ falling in love,' Kate. Girls fall in love : men 
know better. Charlotte has played her cards badly," he added, with 
some emphasis. 

"I don't know," said Mrs. Verrall. "That Charlotte would play 
them to the best of her ability, there's little doubt; but, as I say, she 
had no chance from the first. I think George did love Maria Hastings. 



152 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



I'm sure they have been together enough, he and Charlotte, and they 
have flirted enough : but, as to caring for Charlotte, I don't believe 
George cared for her any more than he cared for me. They have gone 
abroad for the winter : will be away six months or more.'* 

" I am sorry for that," quietly remarked Mr. Verrall. " I was in 
hopes to have made some use of Mr. George Godolphin." 

" Use ? " cried Mrs. Verrall. " What use ? " 

" Oh, nothing," carelessly replied Mr. Verrall. " A little matter of 
business that I was going to propose to him." 
Won't it do when he comes home ? " 
I dare say it may," said Mr. Verrall. 

Mr. Rodolf Pain had walked to the right, and plunged into the grove 
of trees in search of Charlotte. He was not long in finding her. The 
noise made by her dogs was sufficient guide to him. In one respect 
Charlotte Pain was better off than her sister, Mrs. Verrall : she found 
more resources for killing time. Charlotte had no greater taste for 
books than Mrs. Verrall had : if she took one up, it was only to fling 
it down again : she did not draw, she did not work. For some reasons 
of her own, Charlotte kept an ornamental piece of work in hand, which 
never got finished. Once in a way, upon rare occasions, it was taken 
up, and a couple of stitches done to it ; and then, like the book, it was 
flung down again. Charlotte played well ; nay, brilliantly : but she 
never played to amuse herself, or for the love of music — always for 
display. The resources which Charlotte possessed above Mrs. Verrall, 
lay in her horsemanship and her dogs. Mrs. Verrall could ride, and 
sometimes did so ; but it was always in a decorous manner. She did 
not gallop, helter-skelter, across country, as Charlotte did, with half a 
dozen cavaliers barely keeping up with her : she took no pleasure in 
horses for themselves, and she would as soon have entered a pigsty as 
a stable. With all Mrs. Verrall's vanity, and her not over-strong 
intellect, she possessed more of the refinement of the gentlewoman than 
did Charlotte. 

Look at Charlotte now : as Rodolf Pain — a cigar, which he had just 
lighted, between his lips, and his hands in his pockets — approaches 
her. She is standing on a garden bench, with the King Charley in her 
arms : the other two dogs she has set on to fight at her feet, their 
muzzles lying on the bench beside her. What with the natural tem- 
pers of these two agreeable animals, and what with Charlotte's frequent 
pastime of exasperating the one against the other, it had been found 
necessary to keep them muzzled to prevent quarrels : but Charlotte de- 
lighted in removing the muzzles, and setting them on, as she had done 
now. Charlotte had these resources in addition to any possessed by 
Mrs. Verrall. Mrs. Verrall would not, of her own free will, have 
touched a dog with her finger : if compelled to do so, it would have 
been accomphshed in the most gingerly fashion with the extreme tip : 
and it was a positive source of annoyance to Mrs. Verrall, often of con- 
tention between them, Charlotte's admitting these dogs to familiar 
companionship. Charlotte, when weary from want of pastime, could 
find it in the stables, or with her dogs. Many an hour did she thus 
pass : and, so far, she had the advantage of Mrs. Verrall. Mrs. Verrall 
often told Charlotte that she ought to have been born a man : it cannot 



CHARLOTTE'S BARGAIN. 



be denied that some of her tastes were more appropriate to a man than 
to a gentlewoman. 

Rodolf Pain reached the bench. It was a lovely spot, secluded and 
shaded by trees ; with an opening in front to admit a panoramic view 
of the enchanting scenery. But, on the mossy turf between that bench 
and the opening, snarled and fought those awful dogs : neither the noise 
nor the pastime particularly in accordance with that pleasant spot, so 
suggestive of peace. Charlotte looked on approvingly, giving a helping 
word to either side which she might deem required it ; while the King 
Charley barked and struggled in her arms, because he was restrained 
from joining in the melee, 

I am going up at last, Charlotte." 

"Up where?" asked Charlotte, without turning her eyes on Rodolf 
Pain. 

" To town. VerralPs come back." 

Surprise caused her to look at him now. "Verrall back!" she 
uttered. " He has come suddenly, then ; he was not back five minutes 
ago. When are you going up?" 

" I will tell you all about it if you'll muzzle those brutes, and so stop 
their noise." 

Muzzle them yourself," said Charlotte, kicking the muzzles on to 
the grass with her foot. 

Mr. Pain accomplished his task, though he did not particularly like 
it ; neither was it an easy one : the dogs were ferocious at the moment. 
He then drove them away, and Charlotte dropped her King Charley 
that he might run after them ; which he did, barking his short squeak- 
ing bark. Rodolf held out his hand to help Charlotte down from the 
bench ; but Charlotte chose to remain where she was, and seated 
herself on one of its arms. Rodolf Pain took a seat on the bench 
sideways, so as to face her, leaning his back against the other 
arm. 

" When do you go ? " repeated Charlotte. 
" In an hour from this." 

" Quick work," remarked Charlotte. " Verrall gives no time for the 
grass to grow in anything he has to do with." 

" The quick departure is mine," said Mr. Pain. " So that I am in 
town for business to-morrow morning, it's all that Verrall cares about. 
He suggested that I should go up by a night train." 

" / should," cried Charlotte, bluntly. 

" No you would not," answered Rodolf Pain in a tone of bitterness. 
" Were you treated by any one as you treat me, you'd be glad enough 
to get away." 

"That's good!" ejaculated Charlotte with a ringing laugh. "I'm 
sure I treat you beautifully. Many a one would jump at getting the 
treatment from me that I give you ; I can tell you that, Mr. Dolf." 

Mr. Dolf smoked on in silence; rather savagely for him. 

" What have you to complain of?" pursued Charlotte. 

" This," said he, sternly. " That you promised to be my wife ; that 
you have led me on. Heaven knows how long, causing me to believe 
you meant what you said, that you would keep your promise ; and now 
you coolly turn round and jilt me ! That bare fact, is quite enough, 



154 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Charlotte, without going into another mortifying fact — your shghting 
behaviour to me lately." 

"Who says I have jilted you — or that I mean to jilt you?" asked 
Charlotte. 

"Who says it?" retorted Rodolf Pain. "Why — are you not doing 
so?" 

" No. I dare say I shall have you some time." 

" I am getting tired of it, Charlotte," said he, in a weary tone of 
pain. " I have cared for nothing but you in the world — in the shape 
of woman — but I am getting tired ; and I have had enough to make 
me. If you will fix our wedding now, before I go up, and keep to it, 
I'll bless you for it, and make you a fonder husband than George 
Godolphin would have made you." 

"How dare you mention George Godolphin to me in that way?" 
cried Charlotte, with flashing eyes, for the sentence had roused all her 
ire. " You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Dolf Pain ! Has not 
George Godolphin — as it turns out — been engaged to Maria Hastings 
longer than I have known him, and has now married her? Do you 
suppose I could have spent that time with them both, in Scotland, at 
Lady Godolphin's, and not have become acquainted with their secret? 
That must prove what your senseless jealousy was worth !" 

" Charlotte," said he, meekly, " as to George Godolphin, I readily 
confess I was mistaken, and I am sorry to have been so stupid. You 
might have set me right with a word, but I suppose you preferred to 
tease me. However, he is done with now. But, Charlotte, I tell you 
that altogether I am getting tired of it. Plave me, or not, as you feel 
you can : but, played with any longer, I will not be. If you dismiss 
me now, you dismiss me for good." 

" I have half a mind to say yes," returned Charlotte, in the coolest 
tone, as if she were deciding a trifling matter — the choice of a bonnet, 
or the route to be pursued in a walk. " But there's one thing holds me 
back, Dolf." 

"What's that?" asked Dolf, whose cheek had lighted up with eager 
hope. 

Charlotte leaped off the bench and sat down on it, nearer to Dolf, 
her accent and face as apparently honest as if fibs were unknown to 
her. " And it is the only thing which has held me back all along," she 
went on, staring unflinchingly into Dolfs eyes. 

"Well, what is it?" cried he. 

" The hazard of the step." 

" The hazard !" repeated Dolf. " What hazard?" 

Charlotte glanced round, as if to convince herself that nothing with 
human ears was near, and her voice dropped to a whisper. " You and 
Verrall are not upon the safest course " 

" It's as safe as many others," interrupted Dolf Pain. 

" Don't bother about others," testily rebuked Charlotte. " Look to 
itself. I say that it is hazardous : what little I know of it tells me 
that. I have heard a word dropped by you and a word dropped by 
Verrall, and I can put two and two together as well as most people. 
Is there no danger, no chance," she spoke lower still, and with un- 
mistakable gravity — " that a crisis might come, which — which would 



CHARLOTTE'S BARGAIN. 



155 



carry you to a place where nobody stands willingly — the Criminal 
Bar?" 

" Good gracious, no ! " cried Rodolf Pain, flinging his cigar away 
in his surprise and anger. "What could put that into your head, 
Charlotte ? The — profession — may not be one of the strictest honour, 
and it has its dark sides as well as its light ; but there's no danger of 
such a thing as you hint at. Where did you pick up the idea?" 

" I don't know where. I have caught a word or two, not meant for 
me ; and now and then I see things reported in the newspapers. You 
can't deny one thing, Dolf : that, if any unpleasantness should drop 
from the skies, it has been made a matter of arrangement that you 
should be the sufferer, not Verrall." 

Rodolf 's light eyes expanded beyond common. " How did you get 
to know that ? " he asked. 

Never mind how I got to know it. Is it so?" 

" Yes, it is," acknowledged Mr. Pain, who was by nature more 
truthful than Charlotte. " But I give you my word of honour, Char- 
lotte, that there's no danger of our falling into such a pit as you have 
hinted at. We should not be such fools. The worst that could 
happen to me would be a sojourn, short or long, in some snug place 
such as this, while Verrall puts things right. As it has been now, for 
instance, through this business of Appleby's." 

You tell me this to satisfy me," said Charlotte. 

" I tell it because it is truth — so far as my belief goes, and as far as 
I can now foresee." 

" Very well. I accept it," returned Charlotte. " But now, Rodolf, 
mark what I say. If this worst state of things should come to 
pass " 

" It won't, I tell you," he interrupted. " It can't." 

" Will you listen ? I choose to put the matter upon a supposition 
that it may do so. If this state of things should come to pass and you 
fall, I will never fall with you ; and it is only upon that condition that 
I will become your wife." 

The words puzzled Mr. Pain not a little. " I don't understand you, 
Charlotte. As to ^ conditions,' you may make any for yourself that you 
please — in reason." 

"Very well. We will have an understanding with each other, 
drawn up as elaborately as if it were a marriage settlement," she said, 
laughing. " Yes, Mr. Rodolf, while you have been ill-naturedly accus- 
ing me of designs upon the heart of George Godolphin, I was occupied 
with precautions touching my married life with you. You don't 
deserve me; and that's a fact. Let go my hand, will you. One of 
those dogs has got unmuzzled, I fancy, by the noise, and I must run or 
there'll be murder committed." 

" Charlotte," he cried, feverishly and eagerly, 7tot letting go her hand, 
"when shall it be?" 

" As you like," she answered indifferently, " This month, or next 
month, or the month after : / don't care." 

The tone both mortified and pained him. His brow knit : and Char- 
lotte saw the impression her words had made. She put on a pretty look 
of contrition. 



156 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Mind, Rodolf, it shall be an understood thing beforehand that you 
don't attempt to control me in the smallest particular : that I have my 
own way in everything." 

" You will take care to have that, Charlotte, whether it be an under- 
stood thing beforehand, or not," replied he. 

Charlotte laughed as she walked away. A ringing laugh of power, 
which the air echoed : of power, at any rate, over the heart and will of 
Mr. Rodolf Pain. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 

On an April day, sunny and charming, a gentleman with a lady on his 
arm was strolling down one of the narrowest and dirtiest streets of 
Homburg. A tall man was he, tall and handsome, with a fair Saxon 
face, and fair Saxon curls that shimmered like gold in the sunhght. 
Could it be George Godolphin — who had gone away from Prior's Ash 
six months before, nothing but a shadowy wreck. It was George safe 
enough; restored to full strength, to perfect health. Maria, on the 
contrary, looked thin and delicate, and her face had lost a good deal 
of its colour. They had wintered chiefly at Pau, but had left it a 
month past. Since then they had travelled about from place to place, 
by short stages, taking it easy, as George called it : staying a day or 
two in one town, a day or two in another, turning to the right or left, 
as inclination led them, going forward, or backward. So that they 
were home by the middle of April, it would be time enough. George 
had received carte blanche from Thomas Godolphin to remain out as 
long as he thought it necessary ; and George was not one to decline the 
privilege. Play before work had always been George's motto. 

On the previous evening they had arrived at Homburg from Wies- 
baden, and were now taking their survey of the place. Neither liked 
its appearance so much as they had done many other places, and they 
w^ere mutually agreeing to leave it again that evening, when a turning 
in the street brought them in view of another lady and gentleman, arm 
in arm as they were. 

^' English, I am sure," remarked Maria, in a low tone. 

" I should think so ! " replied George, laughing. " Don't you re- 
cognize them?" 

She had recognized them ere George finished speaking. Mr. and 
Mrs. Verrall ! It took about ten minutes to ask and answer questions. 
" How strange that we should not have met before ! " Mrs. Verrall 
cried. " We have been here a fortnight. But perhaps you have only 
just come?" 

" Only last night," said George. 

" My wife turned ill for a foreign tour, so I indulged her," explained 
Mr. Verrall. " We have been away a month now." 
" And a fortnight of it at Homburg ! " exclaimed George in surprise 



DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 



157 



"What attraction can you find here? Maria and I were just saying 
that we would leave it to-night." 

" It's as good as any other of these German places, for all I see," 
carelessly remarked Mr. Verrall. " How well you are looking ! " he 
added to George. 

I cannot pay you the same compliment," Mrs. Verrall said to 
Maria. " What have you done with your roses ? " 

Maria's "roses" came vividly into her cheeks at the question. "I 
am not in strong health just now," was all she answered. 

George smiled. " There's nothing seriously the matter, Mrs. Verrall," 
said he. " Maria will find her roses again after a while. Charlotte 
has — I was going to say, changed her name," broke off George ; " but 
in her case that would be a wrong figure of speech. She is married, 
we hear." 

" Long ago," said Mrs. Verrall. " Charlotte's quite an old married 
woman by this time. It took place — let me see ! — last November. They 
live in London." 

" Mr. Pain is her cousin, is he not ? " 

" Yes. It was an old engagement," continued Mrs. Verrall, looking 
at George. " Many a time, when she and you were flirting together, 
I had to call her to account, and remind her of Mr. Pain." 

George could not remember that Mrs. Verrall had ever done such a 
thing in his presence : and she had been rather remarkable for not 
interfering : for leaving him and Charlotte to go their own way. But 
he did not say so. 

They turned and continued their walk together. George — he had lost 
none of his gallantry — taking his place by the side of Mrs. Verrall. 

In passing a spot where there was a partial obstruction, some confusion 
occurred. A house was under repair, and earth and stones lay half-way 
across the street, barely giving room for any vehicle to pass. Just as 
they were opposite this, a lumbering coach, containing a gay party with 
white bows in their caps — probably a christening — came rattling up at 
a sharp pace. George Godolphin, taking Mrs. Verrall's hand, piloted 
her to safety. Maria was not so fortunate. Mr. Verrall was a little 
behind her or before her : at any rate, he was not adroit enough to 
assist her at the right moment ; and Maria, seeing no escape between 
the coach and the debris^ jumped upon the latter. The stones moved 
under her feet, and she shpped off again to the other side. It did not 
hurt her much, but it shook her greatly. George, who was looking 
back at the time, had sprung back and caught her before Mr. Verrall 
well saw what had occurred. 

" My darHng, how did it happen ? Are you hurt ? Verrall, could you 
not have taken better care ? " he reiterated, his face flushed with emotion 
and alarm. 

Maria leaned heavily upon him, and drew a long breath before she 
could speak. " I am not hurt, George." 
" Are you sure ? " he anxiously cried. 

Maria smiled reassuringly. "It is nothing indeed. It has only 
shaken me. See ! I am quite free from the stones. I must have been 
careless, I think." 

George turned to look at the stones. Quite a heap of them, two or 



iS8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



three feet from the ground. She had ahghted on her feet ; not quite 
falHng ; but shpping with the lower part of her back against the stones. 
Mrs. Verrall shook the dust from her dress, and Mr. Verrall apologized 
for his inattention. 

George took her upon his arm, with an air that seemed to intimate 
he should not trust her to any one again, and they went back to their 
hotel, Mrs. Verrall saying she should call upon them in half an hour's 
time. 

Maria was looking pale ; quite white. George, in much concern, untied 
her bonnet-strings. Maria, I fear you are hurt ! " 

" Indeed I am not — as I beUeve," she answered. " Why do you 
think so ? " 

Because you are not looking well." 

" I was startled at the time ; frightened. I shall get over it directly, 
George." 

" I think you had better see a doctor. I suppose there's a decent one 
to be found in the town." 

" Oh no ! " returned Maria, with much emphasis, in her surprise. 
^' See a doctor because I slipped down a little ? Why, George, that 
would be foolish! I have often jumped from a higher height than that. 
Do you remember the old wall at the Rectory ? We children were for 
ever jumping from it." 

" That was one time, and this is another, Mrs. George Godolphin," 
said he, significantly. 

Maria laughed. " Only fancy the absurdity, George ! Were a 
doctor called in, his first question would be, ' Where are you hurt, 
madame ? ' ^ Not anywhere, monsieur,' would be my reply. * Then 
what do you want with me ? ' he would say, and how foolish I should 
look!" 

George laughed too, and resigned the point. ^'You are the better 
judge, of course, Maria. Margery," he continued — for Margery, at 
that moment, entered the room — " your mistress 'has had a fall." 

" A fall ! " uttered Margery, in her abrupt way, as she turned to 
regard Maria. 

" It could not be called a fall, Margery," said Maria, slightingly. 
" I slipped off some earth and stones. I did not quite fall." 
" Are you hurt, ma'am ? " 

" It did not hurt me at all. It only shook me." 

" Nasty things, those sHps are sometimes ! " resumed Margery. " I 
have known pretty good illnesses grow out of 'em." 

George did not like the remark. He deemed it thoughtless of 
Margery to make it in the presence of his wife, under the circum- 
stances. You must croak, or it would not be you, Margery," said he, 
in a vexed tone. 

It a little put up Margery. " I can tell you what, Master George," 
cried she ; " your own mother was in her bed for eight weeks, through 
nothing on earth but slipping down two stairs. I say those shakes are 
ticklish things — when one is not in a condition to bear them. Ma'am, 
you must just take my advice, and lie down on that sofa, and not get off 
it for the rest of the day. There's not a doctor in the land as knows 
anything, but would say the same." 



DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 



159 



Margery was peremptory ; George joined her in being peremptory 
also ; and Maria, with much laughter and protestation, was fain to let 
them place her on the sofa. " Just as if I were ill, or delicate ! " she 
grumbled. 

And pray, ma'am, what do you call yourself but dehcate ? You are 
not one of the strong ones," cried Margery, as she left the room for 
a shawl. 

George drew his wife's face to his in an impulse of affection, and 
kissed it. " Don't pay any attention to Margery's croaking, my dearest," 
he fondly said. " But she is quite right in recommending you to lie 
still. It will rest you." 

I am afraid I shall go to sleep, if I am condemned to lie here," said 
Maria. 

The best thing you can do," returned George. " Catch me trusting 
you to any one's care again ! " 

In a short time Mrs. Verrall came in, and told George that her husband 
was waiting for him outside. George went out, and Mrs. Verrall sat 
down by Maria. 

" It is Margery's doings, Margery's and George's," said Maria, as if 
she would apologize for being found on the sofa, covered up like an 
invalid. " They made me lie down." 

" Are you happy " Mrs. Verrall somewhat abruptly asked. 

" Happy 1 " repeated Maria, at a loss to understand the exact 
meaning of the words. 

" Happy with George Godolphin. Are you and he happy with each 
other?" 

A soft blush overspread Maria's face ; a light of love shone in her eyes. 
" Oh, so happy ! " she murmured. " Mrs. Verrall, I wonder sometimes 
whether any one in the world is as happy as I am ! " 

" Because it struck me that you were changed ; you look ill." 
Oh, that ! " returned Maria, with a rosier blush still. " Can't you 
guess the cause of that, Mrs. Verrall ? As George told you, I shall, I 
hope, look well again, after a time." 

Mrs. Verrall shrugged her shoulders with indifference. She had never 
lost her bloom from any such cause. 

Maria found — or Margery did for her — that the fall had shaken her 
more than was expedient. After all, a medical man had to be called 
in. Illness supervened. It was not a very serious illness, and not 
at all dangerous ; but it had the effect of detaining them at Homburg, 
Maria lay in bed, and George spent most of his time with the Verralls. 

With Mr. Verrall chiefly. Especially in an evening. George would 
go out, sometimes before dinner, sometimes after it, and come home so 
late that he did not venture into Maria's room to say good night to her. 
Since her illness he had occupied an adjoining chamber. It did Maria 
no good : she would grow flushed, excited, heated : and when George 
did come in, he would look flushed and excited also. 

" But, George, where do you stay so late ? " 

" Only with Verrall." 
You look so hot. I am sure you are feverish." 

" The rooms were very hot. We have been watching them play. 
Good night, darling. I wish you were well ! " 



i6o 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Watching them play! It is your first deceit to your wife, George 
Godolphin ; and, rely upon it, no good will come of it. Mr. Verrall had 
introduced George to the dangerous gaming-tables ; had contrived to 
imbue him with a liking for the insidious vice. Did he do so with — as 
our law terms express it — malice aforethought ? Let the response lie 
with Mr. Verrall. 

On the very first evening that they were together, the day of the 
slight accident to Maria, Mr. Verrall asked George to dine with him ; 
and he afterwards took him to the tables. George did not play that 
evening ; but he grew excited, watching others play. Heavy stakes 
were lost and won ; evil passions were called forth ; avarice, hatred, 
despair. Mr. Verrall played for a small sum ; and won. ''It whiles 
away an hour or two," he carelessly remarked to George, as they were 
leaving. " And one can take care of one's self." 

" All can't take care of themselves, apparently," answered George 
Godolphin. " Did you observe that haggard-looking Englishman, 
leaning against the wall and biting his nails when his money had gone ? 
The expression of that man's face will haunt me for a week to come. 
Those are the men who commit suicide." 

Mr. Verrall smiled, half-mockingly. '' Suicide ! Not they," he 
answered. " The man will be there to-morrow evening, refeathered." 

" I never felt more pity for any one in my life," continued George. 
" There was despair in his face, if I ever saw despair. I could have 
found in my heart to go up and offer him my purse ; only I knew it 
would be staked the next moment at the table." 

" You did not know him, then 1 " 

" No." 

Mr. Verrall mentioned the man's name, and George felt momentarily 
surprised. He was a noted baronet's eldest son. 

The next evening came round. Maria was confined to her bed then, 
and George was a gentleman at large. A gentleman at large to be 
pounced upon by Mr. Verrall. He came — Verrall — and carried George 
off again to dinner. 

'' Let us take a stroll," he said, later in the evening. 

Their stroll took them towards the scene of the night before, Mr. 
Verrall's being the moving will, " Shall we see who's there ? " he said, 
with great apparent indifference. 

George answered as indifferently : but there was an undercurrent of 
meaning in his tone, wonderful for careless George Godolphin. '' Better 
keep out of temptation." 

Mr. Verrall laughed till the tears came into his eyes : he said George 
made him laugh. '' Come along," cried he, mockingly. " I'll take care 
of you." 

That night George played. A little. " As well put a gold piece 
down," Mr. Verrall whispered to him ; " I shall." George staked more 
than one gold piece ; and won. A fortnight had gone over since then, 
and George Godolphin had become imbued with the fearful passion of 
gambling. At any rate, imbued with it temporarily : it is to be hoped 
that he will leave it behind him when he leaves Homburg. 

Just look at him, as he stands over that green cloth, with a flushed 
face and eager eyes ! He is of finer form, of loftier stature than most 



DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 



i6r 



of those who are crowding round the tables ; his features betray higher 
intellect, greater refinement ; but the same passions • are just now dis- 
torting them. Mr. Verrall is by his side, cool, calm, impassive : some- 
how, that man, Verrall, always wins. If he did not, he would not lose 
his coolness : he would only leave the tables. 
" Rouge called George. 

It was noir, George flung his last money on the board, and moved 
away. 

Mr. Verrall followed him. " Tired already ? " 

Mr. George let sHp a furious word. " The luck has been against me 
all along : almost from the first night I played here. I am cleaned out 
again." 

" I can let you have " 

" Thank you ! " hastily interrupted George. You are very accom- 
modating, Verrall, but it seems we may go on at the same thing for 
ever : I losing, and you finding me money. How much is it that 1 owe 
you altogether ? " 

" A bagatelle. Never mind that." 

" A bagatelle I " repeated George. " It's well money is so valueless to 
you : /don^t call it one. And I have never been a man given to looking 
at money before spending it." 

" You can pay me when and how you like. This year, next year, 
the year after : I shan't sue you for it," laughed Mr. Verrall. " There ! 
go and redeem your luck." 

He held out a heavy roll of notes to George. The latter's eager 
fingers clutched them : but, even as they were within his grasp, better 
thoughts came to him. He pushed them back again. 

" I am too deeply in your debt already, Verrall." 

" As you please," returned Mr. Verrall, with indifference. " There 
the notes are, lying idle. As to what you have had, if it's so dreadful 
a burden on your conscience, you can give me interest for it. You can 
let the principal He, I say, though it be for ten years to come. One 
half-hour's play with these notes may redeem all you have lost." 

He left the notes lying by George Godolphin — by hesitating George 
— with the fierce passion to use them that was burning within him. Mr. 
Verrall could not have taken a more efficient way of inducing him to 
play again, than to affect this easy indifference, and to leave the money 
under his eyes, touching his fingers, fevering his brain. George took 
up the notes. 

You are sure you will let me pay you interest, Verrall ? " 
" Of course I will." 

And George walked off to the gaming-table. 

He went home later that night than he had gone at all, wiping the 
perspiration from his brow, Hfting his face to the quiet stars, and gasp- 
ing to catch a breath of air. Mr. Verrall found it rather cool, than 
not ; shrugged his shoulders, and said he could do with an overcoat ; 
but George felt stifled. The roll had gone; and more to it had 
gone; and George Godolphin was Mr. Verrall's debtor to a heavy 
amount. 

" Thank goodness the day has already dawned ! " involuntarily broke 
from George. 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 1 J 



i62 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Mr. Verrall looked at him for an explanation. He did not under- 
stand what particular cause for thankfulness there should be in that. 

"We shall get away from the place to-day," said George. "If I 
stopped in it I should come to the dogs." 

" Nothing of the sort," cried Mr. Verrall. " Luck is safe to turn 
some time. It's hke the tide ; it has its time for flowing in, and its 
time for flowing out ; once let it turn, and it comes rushing in all one 
way. But, what do you mean about going ? Your wife is not well 
enough to travel yet." 

" Yes she is," was George's answer. " Quite well enough." 

" Of course you know best. I think you should consider " 

" Verrall, I should consider my wife's health and safety before any 
earthly thing," interrupted George. " We might have started to-day, 
had we liked : I speak of the day that has gone ; the doctor said yester- 
day that she was well enough to travel." 

" I was not aware of that. I shall remain here a week longer." 

" And I shall be away before to-morrow night.'^ 

" Not you," cried Mr. Verrall. 

" I shall : if I keep in the mind I am in now." 

Mr. Verrall smiled. He knew George was not famous for keeping 
his resolutions. In the morning, when his smarting should be over, he 
would stay on, fast enough. They wished each other good night, and 
George turned into his hotel. 

To his great surprise, Margery met him on the stairs. " Are you 
walking the house as the ghosts do ? " cried he,, with a renewal of his 
good-humour. Nothing pleased George better than to give old Margery 
a joking or a teasing word. " Why are you not in bed ? " 

"There's enough ghosts in the world, it's my behef, without my 
personating them, sir," was Margery's answer. " I'm not in bed yet, 
because my mistress is not in bed." 

" Your mistress not in bed ! " repeated George. " But that is very 
wrong." 

" So it is," said Margery. " But it has been of no use my teUing her 
so. She took it into her head to sit up for you ; and sit up she has. 
Not there, sir" — for he was turning to their sitting-room — "she is 
lying back in the big chair in her bedroom." 

George entered. Maria, white and wan and tired, was lying back, 
as Margery expressed it, in the large easy-chair. She was too fatigued, 
too exhausted to get up • she only held out her hand to her husband. 

" My darling, you know this is wrong," he gently said, bending over 
her. " Good heavens, Maria ! how ill and tired you look ! " 

" I should not have slept had I gone to bed," she said. " George, 
tell me where you have been : where it is that you go in an evening ? " 

A misgiving crossed George Godolphin's mind — that she already 
knew where. She looked painfully distressed, and there was a peculiar 
significance in her tone, but she spoke with timid deprecation. His 
conscience told him that the amusement he had been recently pursuing 
would not show out well in the broad light of day. An unmarried man 
may send himself to ruin if it pleases him to do it ; but not one who 
has assumed the responsibilities of George Godolphin, Ruin, however, 
had not yet come to George Godolphin, or fear of ruin. The worst 



DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 



163 



that had happened was, that he had contracted a debt to Mr. Verrall, 
which he did not at present see his way clear to paying. He could not 
refund so large a sum out of the bank without the question being put by 
his partners, Where does it go to ? Mr. Verrall had relieved him of the 
embarrassment by suggesting interest. A very easy settling of the 
question it appeared to the careless mind of George Godolphin : and 
he felt obliged to Mr. Verrall. 

"Maria!" he exclaimed, "what are you thinking of.'' What is the 
matter ? " 

Maria changed her position. She let her head gHde from the chair 
on to his sheltering arm. " Mrs. Verrall frightened me, George. Will 
you be angry with me if I tell you She came in this evening, and she 
said you and Mr. Verrall were losing all your money at the gaming- 
table." 

George Godolphin's face grew hot and angry, worse than it had been 
in the gambling-room, and mentally he gave Mrs. Verrall an exceed- 
ingly uncomplimentary word. " What possessed her to say that ? " he 
exclaimed. And in truth he wondered what could have possessed her. 
Verrall, at any rate, was not losing his money. " Were you so foolish 
as to believe it, Maria ? " 

' " Only a little of it, George. Pray forgive me ! I am weak just now, 
you know, and things startle me. I have heard dreadful tales of these 
foreign gaming-places : and I knew how much you had been out at 
night since we came here. It is not so, is it, George ? " 

George made a show of laughing at her anxiety. " I and Verrall 
have strolled into the places and watched the play," said he. " We 
have staked a few coins ourselves — not to be looked upon as two churls 
who put their British noses into everything and then won't pay for the 
privilege. I lost what I staked, with a good grace ; but as to Verrall, I 
don't believe he is a halfpenny out of pocket. Mrs. Verrall must have 
been quarrelling with her husband, and so thought she'd say some- 
thing to spite him. And my wife must take it for gospel, and begin to 
fret herself into a fever ! " 

■ Maria drew a long, relieved breath. The address was candid, the 
manner was playful and tender : and she possessed the most implicit 
faith in her husband. Maria had doubted almost the whole world be- 
fore she could have doubted George Godolphin. She drew his face 
down to hers, once more whispering that he was to forgive her for 
being so silly. 

' " My dearest, I have been thinking that we may as well go on to- 
morrow. To-day, that is : I won't tell you the time, if you don't know 
it ; but it's morning." 

She knew the time quite well. No anxious wife ever sat up for a 
husband yet, but knew it. In her impatience to be away — for she was 
most desirous of being at home again — she could take note of the one 
sentence only. " Oh, George, yes I Let us go ! " 

"Will you promise to get a good night's rest first, and not 
attempt to be out of bed before eleven o'clock to-marroW morning, 
then?" 

" George, I will promise you anything," she cried, with a radiant face. 
" Only say we shall start for home to-morrow ! " 



I64 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



^' Yes, we will." 

And, somewhat to Mr. Verrall's surprise, they did start. That 
gentleman made no attempt to detain them. " But it is shabby of you 
both to go off like this, and leave us among these foreigners, like Babes 
in the wood," said he, when Maria was already in the carriage, and 
George was about to step into it. 

" There is nothing to prevent you leaving too, is there, Mr. Verrall ? " 
asked Maria, leaning forward. "And what did you and Mrs. Verrall 
do before we came ? You had been ' Babes in the wood ' a fortnight 
then." 

Fairly put, young lady," returned Mr. Verrall. " I must congratu- 
late you on one thing, Mrs. George Godolphin : that, in spite of your 
recent indisposition, you are looking more yourself to-day than I have 
yet seen you." 

That is because I am going home," said Maria. 

And home they reached in safety. The land journey, the pleasant 
sea crossing — for the day and the waters were alike calm — and then 
the land again, all grew into things of the past, and they were once more 
at Prior^s Ash. As they drove to the Bank from the railway station, 
Maria looked up at the house when it came into sight, a thrill of joy 
running through her heart. " What a happy home it will be for me ! " 
was her glad thought. 

" What would Thomas and old Crosse say, if they knew I had dipped 
into it so deeply at Homburg?" was the involuntary thought which 
flashed across George Godolphin. 

Quite a levee had assembled to meet them. Mrs. Hastings and 
Grace, Bessie and Cecil Godolphin, Thomas Godolphin and Mr. Crosse. 
Maria threw off her bonnet and shawl, and stood amidst them all in 
her dark silk travelling dress. There was no mistaking that she was 
intensely happy : her eye was radiant, her colour softly bright, her fair 
young face without a cloud. And now walked in the Rector of All 
Souls', having escaped (nothing loth) from a stormy vestry meeting, to 
see Maria. 

I have brought her home safely, you see, sir," George said to Mr. 
Hastings, leading Maria up to him. 

" And yourself also," was the Rector's reply. " You are worth two of 
the shaky man who went away." 

" I told you I should be, sir, if you allowed Maria to go with me," 
cried gallant George. " I do not fancy we are either of us the worse 
for our sojourn abroad." 

" I don't think either of you look as though you were," said the 
Rector. " Maria is thin. I suppose you are not sorry to come home. 
Miss Maria?" 

" So glad ! " she said. I began to think it very, very long, not to 
see you all. But, papa, I am not Miss Maria now." 

"You saucy child!" exclaimed Mr. Hastings. But the Rector had 
the laugh against him. Mrs. Hastings drew Maria aside. 

" My dear, you have been ill, George wrote me word. How did it 
happen ? We were so sorry to hear it." 

" Yes, we were sorry too," replied Maria, her eyelashes resting on her 
hot cheek. " It could not be helped." 



DANGEROUS AMUSEMENT. 



t65 



" But how did it happen ? " 
It was my own fault : not intentionally^ you know, mamma. It 
occurred the day after we reached Homburg. I and George were out 
walking and we met the Verralls. We turned with them, and then I 
had not hold of George's arm. Something was amiss in the street, a 
great heap of stones and earth and rubbish ; and, to avoid a carriage 
that came by, I stepped upon it. And, somehow I sHpped off. I did 
not appear to have hurt myself : but I suppose it shook me." 

"You met the Verralls at Homburg?" cried Mrs. Hastings, in sur- 
prise. 

"Yes. Did George not mention it when he wrote? They are at 
Homburg still. Unless they have now left it." 

" George never puts a superfluous word into his letters," said Mrs. 
Hastings, with a smile. " He says just what he has to say, and no 
more. He mentioned that you were not well, and therefore some little 
delay might take place in the return home ; but he said nothing of the 
Verralls." 

Maria laughed. " George never writes a long letter " 

" Who's that, taking George's name in vain ? " cried George, looking 
round. 

"It is I, George. You never told mamma, when you wrote, that the 
Verralls were with us at Homburg." 

" I'm sure I don't remember whether I did or not," said George. 

" The Verralls are in Wales," observed Mr. Hastings. 

" Then they have travelled to it pretty quickly," observed George. 
" When I and Maria quitted Homburg we left them in it. They had 
been there a month." 

Not one present but looked up with surprise. " The impression in 
Prior's Ash is, that they are in Wales," observed Thomas Godolphin. 
" It is the answer given by the servants to all callers at Lady Godol- 
phin's Folly." 

"They are certainly at Homburg; whatever the servants may say," 
persisted George. " The servants are labouring under a mistake." 

" It is a curious mistake for the servants to make, though," observed 
the Rector, in a dry, caustic tone. 

" I think the Verralls are curious people altogether," said Bessy 
Godolphin. 

" I don't know but they are," assented George. " But Verrall is a 
thoroughly good-hearted man, and I shall always speak up for him." 

That evening, George and his wife dined alone. George was stand- 
ing over the fire after dinner, when Maria came and stood near him. 
He put out his arm and drew her to his side. 

"It seems so strange, George — being in this house with you, all 
alone," she whispered. 

" Stranger than being my wife, Maria ? " 

" Oh, but I have got used to that." And George Godolphin laughed : 
she spoke so simply and naturally. 

" You will get used in time to this being your home, my darling." 



PART THE SECOND. 



CHAPTER I. 

SIXTY POUNDS TO OLD JEKYL. 

Standing on the covered terrace outside the dining-room at the Bank, 
in all the warm beauty of the late and lovely spring morning, sur- 
rounded by the perfume of flowers, the green lawn stretching out before 
her, the pleasant sitting-room behind her, its large window open and 
its paintings on the walls conspicuous, was Maria Godolphin. She 
wore a morning dress, simple and pretty as of yore, and her fair face 
had lost none of its beauty, scarcely any of its youth. Looking at her 
you would not think that a month had elapsed since she came there, to 
her home, after her marriage ; and yet the time, since then, would not 
be counted by months, but by years. Six years and a half, it is, since 
her marriage took place, and the little girl, whom Maria is holding by 
the hand, is five years old. Just now Maria's face is all animation.; 
She is talking to the child, and talking also to Jonathan and David 
Jekyl : but if you saw her at an unoccupied moment, her face in repose, 
you might detect an expression of settled sadness in it. It arose from 
the loss of her children. Three had died in succession, one after 
another ; and this one, the eldest, was the only child remaining to her. 
A wondrously pretty little girl, her bare legs peeping between her frilled 
drawers and her white socks ; with the soft brown eyes of her mother, 
and the golden Saxon curls of her father. With her mother's eyes the 
child had inherited her mother's gentle temperament : and Margery — 
who had found in her heart to leave Ashlydyat and become nurse to 
George's children — was wont to say that she never had to do with so 
sweet-tempered a child. She had been named Maria ; but the name, for 
home use, had been corrupted into Meta : not to interfere with Maria's. 
She held her mother's hand, and, by dint of stretching up on her toes, 
could just bring here eyes above the marble top of the terrace balus- 
trade. 

" Donatan, why don't you get that big ting, to-day ? " 

Jonathan looked up, a broad smile on his face. He delighted in little 
children. He liked to hear them call him " Donatan : " and the little 
lady before him was as backward in the sound of the " th," as if she 
had been French. " She means the scythe, ma'am," said Jonathan. 

" I know she does," said Maria. " The grass does not want mowing 
to-day, Meta. David, do you not think those rose-trees are very back- 
ward ? " 1 

David gave his usual grunt. I should wonder if they were for'ard. 



SIXTY POUNDS TO OLD JEKYL. 



167 



There ain't no rose-trees for miles round but what is back'ard, except 
them as have been nursed. With the cutting spring we've had, how 
are the rose-trees to get on, Td hke to know ? " 

Jonathan looked round, his face quite sunshine compared with 
David's : his words also. " They'll come on famous now, ma'am, with 
this lovely weather. Ten days of it, and we shall have them all out in 
bloom. Little miss shall have a rare posy then, and I'll cut off the 
thorns first." 

" A big one, mind, Donatan," responded the young lady, beginning to 
dance about in anticipation. The child had an especial hking for 
roses, which Jonathan remembered. She inherited her mother's great 
love for flowers. 

" David, how is your wife? " asked Maria. 

" I've not heard that there's anything the matter with her," was 
David's phlegmatic answer, without lifting his face from the bed. He 
and Jonathan were both engaged almost at the same spot : David, it 
must be confessed, getting through more work than Jonathan. 

They had kept that garden in order for Mr. Crosse, when the Bank 
was his residence. Also for Thomas Godolphin and his sisters, the 
little time they had lived there *. and afterwards for George. George 
had now a full complement of servants — rather more than a comple- 
ment, indeed — and one of them might well have attended to that small 
garden. Janet had suggested as much : but easy George continued to 
employ the J ekyls. It was not often that the two attended together; 
as they were doing to-day. 

" David," returned Maria, in answer to his remark, I am sure you 
must know that your wife is often ailing. She is anything but strong. 
Only she is always merry and in good spirits, and so people think her 
better than she is. She is quite a contrast to you, David," Maria 
added, with a smile. " You don't talk and laugh much." 

" Talking and laughing don't get on with a man's work, as ever I 
heerd on," returned David. 

" Is it true that your father slipped yesterday, and sprained his 
ankle ? " continued Maria. " I heard that he did." 

" True enough,'* growled David. 

" 'Twas all along of his good fortune, ma'am," said sunny Jonathan. 
"He was so elated with it that he slipped down Gaffer Thorpe's steps, 
where he was going to tell the news, and fell upon his ankle. The 
damage ain't of much account. But that's old father all over 1 Prime 
him up with a piece of good fortune, and he is all cock-a-hoop about it." 

" What is the good fortune? " asked Maria.. . _ 

" It's- that money come to him. at last, ma'am, what he had waited 
for SO: long. I'm sure we had all given it up for lost ; and father stewed 
and fretted over it, wondering always, what was going to become of him 
in his old age. 'Tain't so very much, neither." ; 

" Sixty pound is sixty pound,"- grunted David, . . - 

" Well, so it is,^' acquiesced Jonathan. ." And father looks to it to 
make him more comfortable than he could be from his profits; his 
honey, and his garden, and that. He was like a child last night, 
ma'am, planning what he'd do with it. I told him he had better take 
care not to lose it." 



i68 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Let him bring it to the Bank," said Maria. " Tell him I say so, 
Jonathan. It will be safe here. He might be paid interest for it." 
" I will, ma'am." 

Maria spoke the words in good faith. Her mind had conjured up a 
vision of old Jekyl keeping his sixty pounds in his house, at the foot of 
some old stocking : and she thought how easily he might be robbed of 
it. " Yes, Jonathan, tell him to bring it here : don't let him keep it at 
home, to lose it." 

Maria had another auditor, of whose presence she was unconscious. It 
was her mother. Mrs. Hastings had been admitted by a servant, and 
came through the room to the terrace unheard by Maria. The little 
girl's ears— like all children's — were quick, and she turned, and broke 
into a joyous cry of " Grandma! " Maria looked round. 

" Oh, mamma ! I did not know you were here. Are you quite well ? " 
hastily added Maria, fancying that her mother looked dispirited. 

" We have had news from Reginald this morning, and the news is 
not good," was the reply. "He has been getting into some disagreeable 
scrape over there, and it has taken a hundred pounds or two to clear 
him. Of course they came upon us for it." 

Maria's countenance fell. " Reginald is very unlucky. He seems 
always to be getting into scrapes." 

" He always is," said Mrs. Hastings. " We thought he could not get 
into mischief at sea: but it appears that he does. The ship was at 
Calcutta still, but they were expecting daily to sail for home." 

" What is it that he has been doing " asked Maria. 

" I do not quite understand," replied Mrs. Hastings. " I saw his 
letter, but that was not very explanatory. What it chiefly contained 
were expressions of contrition, and promises of amendment. The 
captain wrote to your papa : and that letter he would not give me to 
read. Your papa's motive was a good one, no doubt, — to save me 
vexation. But, my dear, he forgets that uncertainty causes the imagina- 
tion to conjure up fears, worse, probably, than the reahty." 

" As Reginald grows older, he will grow steadier," remarked Maria. 
"And, mamma, whatever it may be, your grieving over it will not 
mend it." 

"True," repHed Mrs. Hastings. "But," she added, with a sad 
smile, " when your children shall be as old as mine, Maria, you will 
have learnt how impossible it is to a mother not to grieve. Have you 
forgotten the old saying ? * When our children are young they tread 
upon our toes ; but when they are older they tread upon our hearts.' " 

Little Miss Meta was treading upon her toes, just then. The child's 
tiny shoes were dancing upon grandmamma's in her eagerness to get 
close to her, to tell her that Donatan was going to give her a great big 
handful of roses, as soon as they were out, with the torns cut off. 

" Come to me, Meta," said Maria. She saw that her mamma was 
not in a mood to be troubled with children, and she drew the child on 
to her own knee. " Mamma, I am going for a drive presently," she 
continued. " Would it not do you good to accompany me ? " 

" I don't know that I could spare the time this morning," said Mrs. 
Hastings. " Are you going far ? " 

" I can go far or not, as you please," replied Maria. " We have a 



SIXTY POUNDS TO OLD JEKYL. 



169 



new carriage, and George told me at breakfast that I had better try it, 
and see how I Hked it." 

"A new carriage] " repHed Mrs. Hastings, her accent betraying sur- 
prise. " Had you not enough carriages already, Maria ? " 

" In truth, I think we had, mamma. This new one is one that 
George took a fancy to when he was in London last week ; and he 
bought it." 

" Child — though of course it is no business of mine — you surely did 
not want it. What sort of carriage is it ? " 

" It is a large one : a sort of barouche. It will do you good to go 
out with me. I will order it at once, if you will do so, mamma." 

Mrs. Hastings did not immediately reply. She appeared to have fallen 
into thought. Presently she raised her head and looked at Maria. 

" My dear, I have long thought of mentioning to you a certain 
subject ; and I think I will do so now. Strictly speaking, it is, as I 
say, no business of mine, but I cannot help being anxious for your 
interests." 

Maria felt somewhat alarmed. It appeared a formidable preamble. 

" I and your papa sometimes talk it over, one with another. And we 
say" — Mrs. Hastings smiled, as if to disarm her words of their serious 
import — " that we wish we could put old heads upon young shoulders. 
Upon yours and your husband's." 

" But why ? — in what way ? " cried Maria. 

" My dear, if you and he had old heads, you would, I think, see how 
very wrong it is — I speak the word only in your interests, Maria — to 
maintain so great and expensive an establishment. It must cost you 
and George, here, far more than it costs them at Ashlydyat." 

" Yes, I suppose it does," said Maria. 

" We do not know what your husband's income is " 

" I do not know, either," spoke Maria, for Mrs. Hastings had paused 
and looked at her, almost as though she would give opportunity for the 
information to be supplied. George never speaks to me upon money 
matters or business affairs." 

" Well, whatever it is," resumed Mrs. Hastings, "we should judge 
that he must be living up to every farthing of it. How much better 
it would be if you were to live more moderately, and put something 
by ! " 

" I dare say it would," acquiesced Maria. " To tell you the truth, 
mamma, there are times when I fall into a thoughtful mood, and feel 
half frightened at our expenditure. But then again I reflect that George 
knows his own affairs and his own resources far better than I do. The 
expense is of his instituting : not of mine." 

" George is proverbially careless," significantly spoke Mrs. Hastings. 

" But, mamma, if at the end of one year, he found his expenses 
heavier than they ought to be, he would naturally retrench them the 
next. His not doing it proves that he can afford it." 

" I am not saying, or thinking, that he cannot afford it, Maria, in one 
sense ; I do not suppose he outruns his income. But you might live at 
half your present expense and be quite as comfortable, perhaps more 
so. Servants, carriages, horses, dress, dinner-parties! — I know you 
must spend enormously." 



170 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Well, so we do," replied Maria. " But, mamma, you are perhaps 
unaware that George has an equal share with Thomas. He has indeed. 
When Mr, Crosse retired, Thomas told George it should be so for the 
future." 

Did he ? There are not many like Thomas Godolphin. Still, 
Maria, whatever may be your income, I maintain my argument, that 
you keep up unnecessary style and extravagance. Remember, my dear, 
that you had no marriage settlement. And, the more you save, the 
better for your children. You may have many yet." 
I think I will talk to George about it," mused Maria. 

Of course the past seven years had not been without their changes. 
Mr. Crosse had retired from the Bank, and Thomas Godolphin, in his 
generosity, immediately constituted his brother an equal partner. He 
had not been so previously. Neither had it been contemplated by Sir 
George in his lifetime that it was so to be, yet awhile. The state main- 
tained at Ashlydyat took more to keep it up than the quiet way in 
which it was supposed George would live at the Bank, and Thomas was 
the representative Godolphin. But Thomas Godolphin was incapable 
of any conduct bordering in the remotest degree upon covetousness or 
meanness: they were the sons of one father; and though there was 
the difference in their ages, and he was chief of the Godolphins, he 
made George's share equal to his own. 

It was well perhaps that he did so. Otherwise George might have 
plunged into shoals and quicksands. He appeared to have no idea of 
living quietly ; had he possessed the purse of Fortunatus, which was 
always full of gold, we are told, he could not have been much more 
careless of money. Rumour went, too, that all Mr. George's wild oats 
(bushels of which, you may remember to have heard. Prior's Ash gave 
him credit for) were not yet sown ; and wild oats run away with a great 
deal of money. Perhaps the only person in all Prior's Ash who believed 
George Godolphin to be a saint, or next door to one, was Maria. Best 
that she should think so ! But, extravagant as George was, a suspicion 
that he lived beyond his income, was never glanced at. Sober people, 
such as the Rector of All Souls' and Mrs. Hastings, would say in private 
what a pity it was that George did not think of saving for his family. 
Ample as the income, present and future, arising from the Bank might 
be, it could not be undesirable to know that a nest-egg was accumu- 
lating. Thomas might have suggested this to George : gossips surmised 
that he did so, and that George let the suggestion go for nothing. They 
were wrong. Whatever lectures Janet may have seen well to give him, 
Thomas gave him none. Thomas was not one to interfere, or play the 
mentor : and Thomas had a strong silent conviction within him, that 
ere very long George would come into Ashlydyat. The conviction was 
born of his suspected state of health. He might be -wrong: but he 
believed he was not. Ashlydyat George's; the double income- from 
the Bank George's — where was the need to tell him to save now 1 

The Reverend Mr. Hastings had had some trouble -with, his boys: 
insomuch as that they had turned their faces against- the. careei: he had 
marked out for them. Isaac, the eldest, destined for the Church, had 
declined to qualify himself for it when he came to years of discretion. 
After some uncertainty, and what Mr. Hastings called "knocking 



SIXTY POUNDS TO OLD JEKYL. 



171 



about'' — which meant that he was doing nothing when he ought to 
have been at work : and that state of affairs lasted for a year or two 
— Isaac won Maria over to his side. Maria, in her turn, won over 
George : and Isaac was admitted into the Bank. He held a good post 
in it now : the brother of Mrs. George Godolphin was not left to rise by 
chance or priority. A handsome young man of three and twenty was 
he : steady ; and displaying an aptitude for business beyond his years. 
Many a one deemed that Isaac Hastings, in a worldly point of view, 
had done well in quitting the uncertain prospects offered by the 
Church, for a clerkship in the house of Godolphin. He might rise 
some time to be a partner in it. Reginald had also declined the career 
marked out for him. Some government appointment had been pro- 
mised him : in fact, had been given him : but Reginald would hear of 
nothing but the sea. It angered Mr. Hastings much. One of the last 
men, was he, to force a boy into the Church ; nay, to allow a boy to 
enter it, unless he showed a special liking for it; therefore Isaac had, 
on that score, got off pretty freely ; but he was not one of the last men 
to force a boy to work, who displayed a taste for idleness. Reginald 
argued that he should lead a far more idle life in a government office, 
than he should have a chance of doing if he went to sea. He was 
right, so far. Mrs. Hastings had a special horror of the sea. Mothers, 
as a general rule, have. She set her face — and Mr. Hastings had also 
set his — against Reginald's sea visions ; which, truth to say, had com- 
menced with his earliest years. 

However, Reginald and inclination proved too strong for opposition. 
The government post had to be declined with thanks ; and to sea he 
went. Not into the navy : the boy had become too old for it : but into 
the merchant service. A good service, the firm he entered : but an 
expensive one. The premium was high ; the outfit was large ; the yearly 
sum that went in expenses while he was what is called a midshipman 
was considerable. But he quitted that service in a pique, and had 
since been trying different ships on his own account. Altogether, Mr. 
Hastings had trouble with him. Harry was keeping his first term at 
College. He had chosen the Church of his own free will : and was 
qualifying for it. Grace was married. And Rose was growing up to 
be as pretty as Maria. 

" Maria," said Mrs. Hastings, " if I am to go out with you to-day, 
why should we not call upon Mrs. Averil ? I have wanted to see her 
for some time." 

1 "I will call with pleasure," was Maria's answer. " As well take a long 
drive as a short one. Then we should start at once." • 

She rang the bell as she spoke. To order the x:arriage, and for Mar- 
gery "to come for Miss Meta. The latter, who had played the trick 
before, suddenly broke from Margery, and dashed into the Bank parlour. 
She had learned to open the door. 

George by" good luck happened to be alone. He affect-ed great 
anger, and Margery also scolded sharply. George had been sitting at 
a table, bending over account books, his spirit weary, his brow knit. 
His assumed anger was wasted : for he caught up the child the next 
moment and covered her face with kisses. Then he carried her into 
the dining-room to Maria. 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



" What am I to do with this naughty child, mamma ? She came 
bursting in upon me hke a great fierce Hon. I must buy a real lion and 
keep him in the closet, and let him loose if she does it again. Meta 
won't like to be eaten up." 

Meta laughed confidentially. " Papa won't let a lion eat Meta." 

" You saucy child ! " But George's punishment consisted only of 
more kisses. 

" Is Meta going with you?" asked George, when Maria told him of 
the contemplated visit to Mrs. Averil. 

Meta interposed. " Yes, she should go," she said. 

" If I take Meta, I must take you also, Margery," observed Maria. 
" I cannot have the trouble of her in the carriage." 

" / shan't hinder time," was Margery's response. " My bonnet and 
shawl's soon put on, ma'am. Come along, child. I'll dress you at 
once." 

She went off with Meta, waiting for no further permission. George 
stepped out on the terrace, to see what Jonathan and David were about. 
Maria took the opportunity to tell him of the sixty pounds which had 
come to old Jekyl, and that she had advised its being brought to the 
Bank to be taken care of. 

" What money is it ? Where does it come from ? " inquired George 
of the men. 

" It's the money, sir, as was left to father this three years ago, from 
that dead uncle of ourn," returned Jonathan. " But the lawyers, sir, 
they couldn't agree, and it was never paid over. Now there has been 
a trial over it, something about the will ; and father has had notice that 
it's ready for him, all the sixty pound." 

" We will take care of it for him, and pay him interest, tell him, if 
he chooses to leave it here," said George. 

" I'll tell him, sure enough, sir. He's safe to bring it." 

The carriage was at the door in due course, and they were ready. 
A handsome carriage; acknowledged to be so by even Mrs. Hastings. 
George came out to hand them in. Miss Meta, a pretty little dressed- 
up fairy; Margery, plain and old-fashioned ; Mrs. Hastings, quiet and 
ladylike; Maria, beautiful. Her hand hngered in her husband's. 

" I wish you were coming, George," she bent from the carriage to 
whisper. 

" I am too busy to-day, my dearest." 

Although nearly seven years a wife, the world still contained no idol 
for Maria like George Godolphin. She loved, respected, reverenced 
him. Nothing, as yet, had shaken her faith in her husband. The 
little tales, making free with Mr. George's name, which would now 
and then be flying about Prior's Ash, had never reached the ears of 
Maria. 

They had a seven-mile drive. The Honourable Mrs. Averil, who 
was growing in years, and had become an invalid, was delighted to 
see them. She kept them for two or three hours, and wanted to keep 
them for the day. It was late in the afternoon when they returned to 
Prior's Ash. 

They met a cavalcade on entering the town. A riding-party, con- 
sisting of several ladies and one or two gentlemen, followed by some 



WHY DID IT ANGER HIM? 



173 



grooms. Somewhat apart from the rest, midway between the party 
and the grooms, rode two abreast, laughing, animated, upon the best 
of terms with each other. The lady sat her horse unusually well. 
She was slightly larger, but not a whit less handsome, than on the day 
you first saw her at the meet of the hounds : Charlotte Pain. He, gay 
George — for it was no other — was riding carelessly, half turning on his 
horse, his fair curls bending towards Charlotte. 
" Papa ! papa ! " shrieked out Meta, joyously. 

George turned hastily, but the carriage had then passed. So occupied 
had he been in making himself agreeable that he had positively not 
seen it. Charlotte had. Charlotte had bowed. Bowed to Maria with 
a look of cool assurance, of triumph — as much as to say. You are 
sitting alone, and your husband is with me. At least, it might have 
worn that appearance to one given to flights of fancy, which Maria 
was not ; and she returned the bow with a pleasant smile. She caught 
George's eye when he turned, and a flush of pleasure lighted her face. 
George nodded to her cordially, and raised his hat, sending back a 
smile at the idea of his not having seen her. 

" It was papa, was it not, darling ! " said Maria, gleefully, bending 
over to her little girl. 

But Maria did not notice that Margery's head had given itself a 
peculiar toss at sight of George's companion ; or that a severe expres- 
sion had crossed the face of Mrs. Hastings. An expression which she 
instantly smoothed away, lest Maria should see it. 

The fact was, that gossiping Prior's Ash had for some time coupled 
together the names of George Godolphin and Charlotte Pain in its 
usual free manner. No need, one would think, for Mrs. Hastings or 
Margery to give heed to such tattle : for they knew well what the 
* stories of Prior's Ash were worth. 



CHAPTER II. 

WHY DID IT ANGER HIM? 

The drawing-rooms at Lady Godolphin's Folly were teeming with 
light, with noise, with company. The Verralls lived in it still. Lady 
Godolphin had never given them their dismissal : but they did not 
spend so much time in it as formerly. London, or elsewhere, appeared 
to claim them for the greater portion of the year. One year they did 
not come to it at all. Sometimes only Mrs. Verrall would be sojourn- 
ing at it ; her husband away : indeed, their residence there was most 
irregular. Mrs. Verrall was away at present : it was said at the seaside. 

A dinner-party had taken place that day. A gentleman's party. It 
was not often that Mr. Verrall gave one : but when he did so, it was 
thoroughly well done. George Godolphin did not give better dinners 
than did Mr. Verrall. The only promised guest who had failed in his 
attendance was Thomas Godolphin. Very rarely indeed did he accept 
invitations to the Folly. If there was one man in all the county to 
whom Mr. Verrall seemed inclined to pay court, to treat with marked 



174 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



consideration and respect, that man was Thomas Godolphin. Thomas 
almost always declined ; declined courteously ; in a manner which 
could not afford the slightest loophole for offence. He was of quiet 
habits, not strong in health of late, and though he had to give dinner- 
parties himself, and attended some of George's in the way of business, 
his friends were nearly all kind enough to excuse his frequenting theirs 
in return. 

This time, however, Thomas Godolphin had yielded to Mr. Verrall's 
pressing entreaties, made in person, and promised to be present. A 
promise which was not — as it proved — to be kept. All the rest of the 
guests had assembled, and they were only waiting the appearance of 
Mr. Godolphin to sit down, when a hasty note arrived from Janet. 
Mr. Godolphin had been taken ill in dressing, and was utterly unable 
to attend. So they dined without him. 

Dinner was over now. And the guests, most of them, had gone 
to the drawing-rooms; teeming, I say, with light, with the hum of 
many voices — with heat. A few had gone home; a few had taken 
cigars and were strolHng outside the dining-room windows in the 
moonlight : some were taking coffee ; and some were flirting with 
Charlotte Pain. 

Mrs. Pain now, you remember. But Charlotte has worn weeds for 
her husband since you last saw her, and is free again. About four 
years after their marriage, the death of Rodolf Pain appeared in the 
county papers. None of the Verralls were at the Folly at the time ; 
but Charlotte in her widow's dress came to it almost immediately 
afterwards, to sob out her sorrow in retirement. Charlotte emerged 
from her widowhood gayer than before. She rode more horses, she 
kept more dogs, she astonished Prior's Ash with her extraordinary 
modes of attire, she was altogether "faster" than ever. Charlotte 
had never once visited the neighbourhood during her married life ; 
but she appeared to be incHned to make up for it now, for she chiefly 
stayed in it. When the Verralls, one or both, would be away, Char- 
lotte remained at the Folly, its mistress. She held her court ; she gave 
entertainments; she visited on her own score. Rumour went that 
Mrs. Pain had been left very well off : and that she shared with Mr. 
Verrall the expense of the Folly. 

Charlotte managed to steer tolerably clear of ill-natured tongues. 
Latterly, indeed, people had got to say that Mr. George Godolphin was 
at the Folly more than he need be. But, it was certain that George 
and Mr. Verrall were upon most intimate terms : and Mr. Verrall had 
been staying at the Folly a good deal of late. George of course would 
have said that his visits there were paid to Mr. Verrall. Charlotte was 
popular in the neighbourhood, rather than otherwise ; with the ladies 
as well as with the gentlemen. 

Resplendent is Charlotte to-night, in a white silk dress with silver 
spots upon it. It is a really beautiful dress : but one of a quieter kind 
would have been more suited to this occasion. Charlotte had not 
appeared at dinner, and there was not the least necessity for embellish- 
ing herself in this manner to receive them in the drawing-room. 
Charlotte was one, however, who did as she pleased ; in the matter of 
dress, as in other things, setting custom and opinion at defiance. Her 



WHY DID IT ANGER HIM? 



175 



hair is taken from her face and wound round and round her head 
artistically, in conjunction with a white and silver wreath. White and 
silver ornaments are on her neck and arms, and a choice bouquet of 
white hot-house flowers serves her to toy with. Just now, however, 
the bouquet is discarded, and lies on the table near her elbow, for her 
elbow is resting there as she sits. She is coquetting with a white and 
silver fan, gently wafting it before her face ; her sparkling eyes glancing 
over its rim at a gentleman, who stands, coffee-cup in hand, bending 
down to her. 

It is not George Godolphin. So do not let your imagination run off 
to him. For all the world saw, George and Charlotte were as decorous 
in behaviour with each other as need be : and where Prior's Ash was 
picking up its ill-natured scandal from, Prior's Ash best knew. Others 
talked and laughed with Charlotte as much as George did ; rode with 
her, admired her. 

The gentleman, bending down to her now, appears to admire her. 
A tall, handsome man of eight-and-thirty years, with clearly-cut features, 
and dark luminous eyes. He is the nephew of that Mrs. Averil to 
whom Maria and Mrs. Hastings went to pay a visit He has been 
away from the neighbourhood, until recently, for nearly three years ; 
and this is the first time he has seen Charlotte at Prior^s Ash since she 
was Mrs. Pain. 

What does Charlotte promise herself by thus flirting with him — 
by laying out her charms to attract him ? — as she is evidently doing. 
Is she thinking to make a second marriage? to win him, as she once 
thought to win George Godolphin? Scarcely. One gentleman in the 
vicinity, who had thrown himself and his fortune at Charlotte's feet— 
and, neither fortune nor gentleman could be reckoned despicable — had 
been rejected with an assurance that she would never marry again; 
and she spoke it with an earnestness that left no doubt of her sincerity. 
Charlotte liked her own liberty too well. She was no doubt perfectly 
f aware that every husband would not feel inclined to accord it to her as 
entirely as had poor Rodolf Pain. He — the one with the coffee-cup in 
hand, talking to her — is plunging into a sea of blunders. As you may 
hear, if you listen to what he is saying. 

" Yes, I have come back to find many things changed," he was ob- 
serving ; " things and people. Time, though but a three years' flight, 
leaves its mark behind it, Mrs. Pain. If you will allow me to remark 
it, I would say that you are almost the only one whom it has not 
changed — except for the better." 

" Your lordship has not lost your talent for flattery, I perceive," was 
Charlotte's rejoinder. 

" Nay, but I speak no flattery ; I mean what I say," was the peer's 
reply, given in an earnest spirit. He was an admirer of beauty ; he 
admired Charlotte's : but to flatter was not one of the failings of Lord 
Averil. Neither had he any ulterior object in view, save that of passing 
ten minutes of the eVening agreeably with Charlotte's help, ere he took 
his departure. If Charlotte thought he had, she was mistaken. Lord 
Averil's affections and hopes were given to one very different from 
Charlotte Pain. 

" But it must be considerably more than three years since I saw you," 



176 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



resumed Lord Averil. It must be — I should think — nearer seven. 
You did not return to Prior's Ash— if I remember rightly — after you 
left it on your marriage." 

" I did not return to it," replied Charlotte : " but you have seen me 
since then, Lord Averil. Ah! your memory is treacherous. Don't you 
recollect accosting me in Rotten Row? It was soon after you lost your 
wife." 

Did Charlotte intend that as a shaft? Lord Averil's cheek burnt as 
he endeavoured to recall the reminiscence. " I think I remember it," 
he slowly said. "It was just before I went abroad. Yes, I do remem- 
ber it," he added, after a pause. " You were riding with a young, fair 
man. And — did you not — really I beg your pardon if I am wrong- 
did you not introduce him to me as Mr. Pain ? " 

"It was Mr. Pain," replied Charlotte. 
I hope he is well. He is not here probably? I did not see him at 
table, I think." 

Charlotte's face — I mean its complexion — was got up in the fashion. 
But the crimson that suffused it would have penetrated all the powder 
and cosmetics extant, let them have been laid on ever so profusely. 
She was really agitated: could not for the time speak. Another 
moment, and she turned deadly pale. Let us admire her, at any rate, 
for this feeling shown to her departed husband. 

" My husband is dead. Lord Averil." 

Lord Averil felt shocked at his blunder. " You must forgive me," 
he said in a gentle voice, his tone, his manner, showing the deepest 
sympathy. " I had no idea of it. No one has mentioned it to me 
since my return. The loss, I infer, cannot be a very recent one? " 

In point of fact, Mr. Pain's demise had occurred immediately after 
the departure of Lord Averil from England. Charlotte is telling him 
so. It could not, she thinks, have been more than a week or two sub- 
sequent to it. 

"Then he could not have been ill long," remarked his lordship. 
" What was the cause " 

" Oh pray do not make me recall it ! " interrupted Charlotte in a tone 
of pain. "He died suddenly: but — it was altogether very distressing. 
Distressing to me, and distressing in its attendant circumstances." 

An idea flashed over the mind of Lord Averil that the circumstances 
of the death must have been peculiar : in short, that Mr. Pain might 
have committed suicide. If he was wrong, Charlotte's manner was to 
blame. It was from that he gathered the thought. That the subject 
was a most unwelcome one, there could be no doubt; she palpably 
shrank from it. 

Murmuring again a few clear words of considerate apology. Lord 
Averil changed the conversation, and presently said adieu to Charlotte. 

"You surely are not thinking of going yet?" cried Charlotte, retain- 
ing his hand, and recovering all her lightness of manner. " They are 
setting cut the whist-tables." 

" I do not play. I have a visit to pay yet to a sick friend," he added, 
glancing at his watch. " I shall still be in time." 

" But I do not think your carriage is here," urged Charlotte, who 
would fain have detained him. 



WHY DID IT ANGER HIM? 



177 



I am sure it is not here," was the peer's answer. " I did not order 
it to come for me. It is a fine night, and I shall walk to Prior's Ash." 

He looked round for Mr. Verrall. He could not see him. In at one 
room, in at another, looked he ; out upon the terrace, before the dining- 
room window, amidst the smokers. But there was no Mr. Verrall : 
and Lord Averil, impatient to be gone, finally departed without wishing 
his host good night. 

Mr. Verrall had strolled out into the moonlight, and was in low, 
earnest conversation with George Godolphin. They had got as far as 
that stream on which you saw George rowing the day of Mrs. Verrall's 
fete, when he so nearly caught his death. Standing on the arched 
wooden bridge, which crossed it to the mock island, they leaned for- 
ward, their arms on the rails. Mr. Verrall was smoking; George Go- 
dolphin appeared to be too ill at ease to smoke. His brow was knit; 
his face hot with care. As fast as he wiped the drops from his brow 
they gathered there again. 

" Don't worry, lad," said Mr. Verrall. It always has come right, 
and it will come right now. Never fear. You will receive news from 
London to-morrow ; there's httle doubt of it." 

" But it ought to have come to-day, Verrall." 

" It will come to-morrow, safe enough. And — you know that you 
may always count upon me." 

" I know I may. But look at the awful cost, Verrall." 

" Pooh, pooh ! What has put you in this mood to-night ? " 

" I don't know," said George, wiping the damp from his brow. Not 
hearing from town, I think. Verrall ! " 
What ? " 

" Suppose, when I do hear, it should not be favourable ? I feel in a 
fever when I think of it." 

" You took too much of that heating port this evening," said Mr. 
Verrall. 

I dare say I did," returned George. "A man at ease may let the 
wine pass him : but one worried to death is glad of it to drown care." 

" Worried to death ! " repeated Mr. Verrall in a reproving tone. 

" Next door to it. Look there ! They have tracked us and are 
coming in search." 

Two or three dark forms were discerned in the distance, nearer the 
Folly. Mr. Verrall passed his arm within George Godolphin's and led 
him towards the house." 

" I think I'll go home," said George. " I am not company for a dog 
to-night.'^ 

^ Nonsense," said Mr. Verrall. The tables are ready. I want to 
give you your revenge." 

For once in his hfe — and it was a notable exception — George Godol- 
phin actually resisted the temptation of the "tables;" the chance of 
" revenge." He had a heavy trouble upon him ; a great fear ; perhaps 
more than Mr. Verrall knew of. Ay, he had ! But who would have 
suspected it of gay, careless George, who had been so brilHant at the 
dinner-table.^ He forswore for that one night the attractions of the 
Folly, including syren Charlotte, and went straight home. 

It was not much past ten when he reached the Bank. Maria was 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 12 



l/g THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



astonished : the Verrall dinner-parties were generally late affairs. She 
was sitting alone, reading. In her glad surprise she ran to him with 
an exclamation of welcome. 

George pressed her tenderly to him, and his manner was gay and 
careless again. Whatever scandal Prior's Ash might choose to talk of 
George, he had not yet begun to neglect his wife. 

It was rather humdrum, darhng, and I got tired," he said in answer 
to her questions. What have you been doing with yourself? Have 
you been alone all the evening ? " 

Since mamma left. She went home after tea. George, I want to 
tell you something mamma has been talking of ; has been suggesting." 

George stretched himself on the sofa, as if he were weary. Maria 
edged herself on to it, and sat facing him, holding his hand while she 
talked. 

"It was the new carriage that brought the subject up, George. 
Mamma introduced it this morning. She says we are living at too 
great an expense ; that we ought not to spend more than half as much 
as we do " 

" What ? " shouted George, starting up from the sofa as if he had 
been electrified. 

Maria felt electrified ; electrified by the sudden movement, the word, 
the tone of anger. Nay, it was not anger alone that it bore, but dis- 
may ; fear — she could hardly tell what sound. " George," she gasped, 
" what is the matter ? " 

" Tell me what it is that Mrs. Hastings has been saying ? " 

" George, I think you must have mistaken my words," was all that 
Maria could reply in the first moment, feeling truly uncomfortable. 
" Mamma said this morning that it was a pity we did not live at less 
expense, and save money; that it would be desirable for the sake of 
Meta and any other children we may have. I said I thought it would 
be desirable, and that I would suggest it to you. That was all." 

George gazed at Maria searchingly for the space of a minute or two. 
" Has Prior's Ash been saying this ?" 

" Oh no." 

" Good. Tell Mrs. Hastings, Maria, that we are capable of manag- 
ing our own affairs without interference. I do not desire it, nor will I 
admit it." 

Maria sat down to the table with her book ; the one she had been 
reading when George came in. She put up her hands, as if absorbed 
in reading, but her tears were falling. She had never had an ill 
word with her husband ; had never had any symptom of estrangement 
with him ; and she could not bear this. George lay on the sofa, his 
lips compressed. Maria rose, in her loving, affectionate nature, and 
stood before him. 

" George, I am sure mamma never meant to interfere ; she would 
not do such a thing. What she said arose from anxiety for our in- 
terests. I am so sorry to have offended you," she added, the tears 
falHng fast. 

A repentant fit had come over him. He drew his wife's face down 
on his own and kissed its tears away. " Forgive me, my dearest ; I 
was wrong to speak crossly to you, A splitting headache has put me 



CECIL'S ROMANCE. 



179 



out of sorts, and I was vexed to hear that people were commenting on 
our private affairs. Nothing could annoy me half so much." 

Maria wondered why. But she fully resolved that it should be the 
last time she would hint at such a thing as economy. Of course her 
husband knew his own business best. 



CHAPTER III. 

CECIL'S ROMANCE. 

We must turn to Ashlydyat, and go back to a little earlier in the even- 
ing. Miss Godolphin's note to the Folly had stated that her brother 
had been taken ill while dressing for Mr. Verrall's dinner-party. It 
was correct. Thomas Godolphin was alone in his room, ready, when 
he was attacked by a sharp internal paroxysm of agony. He hastily 
sat down : a cry escaped his lips, and drops of water gathered on his 
brow. 

. Alone he bore it, caUing for no aid. In a few minutes tke. pain had 
partially -passed, and he rang for his servant. An old man now, that 
servant : he had for years attended on Sir George Godolphin. 

"Bexley, I have been ill again," said Thomas, quietly. Will you 
ask Miss Godolphin to write a Hne to Mr. Verrall, saying that I am 
unable to attend." 

Bexley cast a strangely yearning look on the pale, suffering face of 
his master. He had seen him in these paroxysms once or twice. " I 
wish you would have Mr. Snow called in, sir ! " he cried. 

" I think I shall. He may give me some ease, possibly. Take my 
message to your mistress, Bexley." 

The effect of the message was to bring Janet to the room. " Taken 
ill ! a sharp inward pain ! " she was repeating, after Bexley. " Thomas, 
what sort of a pain is it ? It seems to me that you have had the same 
before lately." 

" Write a few words the first thing, will you, Janet ? I should not 
like to keep them waiting for me." 

Janet, punctilious as Thomas, considerate as he was for others, sat 
down and wrote the note, despatching it at once by Andrew, one of the 
serving men. Few might have set about and done it so calmly as 
Janet, considering that she had a great fear thumping at her heart. 
A fear which had never penetrated it until this moment. With some- 
thing very like sickness, had flashed into her memory their mother's 
pain. A sharp, agonizing pain had occasionally attacked her^ the 
symptom of the inward malady of which she had died. Was the same 
fatal malady attacking Thomas? The doctors had expressed their 
fears then that it might prove hereditary. 

In the corridor, as Janet was going back to Thomas's room, the note 
despatched, she encountered Bexley. The sad, apprehensive look in 
the old man's face struck her. She touched his arm, and beckoned 
him into an empty room. 

What is it that is the matter with your master ? " 



i8o THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I don't know," was the answer : but the words were spoken in a 
tone which caused Janet to think that the old man was awake to the 
same fears that she was. " Miss Janet, I am afraid to think what it 
may be." 

" Is he often ill like this ? " 

" I know but ot a time or two, ma'am. But that's a time or two 
too many." 

Janet returned to the room. Thomas was leaning back in his chair, 
his face ghastly, his hands fallen, prostrate altogether from the effects 
of the agony. Things were coming into her mind one by one : how 
much time Thomas had spent in his own room of late ; how seldom, 
comparatively speaking, he went to the Bank ; how often he had the 
brougham, instead of walking, when he did go to it. Once — why, it 
was only this very last Sunday ! — he had not gone near church all day 
long. Janet's fears grew into certainties. 

. She took a chair, drawing it nearer to Thomas. Not speaking of her 
fears, but asking him in a soothing tone how he felt, and what had 
caused his illness. Have you had the same pain before.'*" she con- 
tinued. 

" Several times," he answered. " But it has been worse to-night than 
I have previously felt it. Janet, I fear it may be the forerunner of my 
call. I did not think to leave you so soon." 

Except that Janet's face went almost as pale as his, and that her 
fingers entwined themselves together so tightly as to cause pain, there 
was no outward sign of the grief that laid hold of her heart. 

" Thomas, what is the complaint that you are fearing ? " she asked, 
after a pause. " The same that — that " 

"That my mother had," he quietly answered, speaking the words 
that Janet would not speak. 

"It may not be so," gasped Janet. 

" True. But I think it is." 

" Why have you never spoken of this ? " 

" Because, until to-night, I have doubted whether it was so, or not. 
A suspicion, that it might be so, certainly was upon me : but it 
amounted to no more than suspicion. At times, when I feel quite 
well, I argue that I must be wrong." 

" Have you consulted Mr. Snow?" 

" I am going to do so now. I have desired Bexley to send for him." 
" It should have been done before, Thomas." 

"Why? If it is as I suspect, neither Snow nor all his brethren can 
save me." 

Janet clasped her hands upon her knee, and sat with her head bent. 
She was feeling the communication in all its bitter force. It seemed 
that the only one left on earth with whom she could sympathize was 
Thomas ; and now perhaps he was going ! Bessy, George, Cecil, all 
v/cre younger, all had their own pursuits and interests ; George had his 
new ties ; but she and Thomas seemed to stand alone. With the deep 
sorrow for him, the brother whom she dearly loved, came other con- 
siderations, impossible not to occur to a practical, foreseeing mind such 
as Janet's. With Thomas they should lose Ashlydyat. George would 
come into possession : and George's ways were so different from theirs, 



CECIL'S ROMANCE. 



i8i 



that it would seem to be no longer in the family. What would George 
make of it ? A gay, frequented place, as the Verralls — when they were 
at home — made of Lady Godolphin's Folly ? Janet's cheeks flushed at 
the idea of such degeneracy for stately Ashlydyat. However it might 
be, whether George turned it into an ever-open house, or shut it up as 
a nunnery, it would be alike lost to all the rest of them. She and her 
sisters must turn from it once again and for ever ; George, his wife, and 
his children, would reign there. 

Janet Godolphin did not rebel at this ; she would not have had it 
otherwise. Faihng Thomas, George was the fit and proper represent- 
ative of Ashlydyat. But the fact could but strike upon her now with 
gloom. All things wore a gloomy hue to her in that unhappy moment. 

It would cause changes at the Bank, too. At least, Janet thought it 
probable that it might do so. Could George carry on that extensive 
concern himself ? Would the public be satisfied with gay George for 
its sole head.'* — would they accord him the confidence they had 
given Thomas ? These old retainers, too ! If she and her sisters 
quitted Ashlydyat, they must part with them : leave them to serve 
George. 

Such considerations passed rapidly through her imagination. It 
could not well be otherwise. Would they really come to pass ? She 
looked at Thomas, as if seeking in his face the answer to the doubt. 

His elbow on the arm of his chair, and his temples pressed upon his 
hand, sat Thomas ; his mind in as deep a reverie as Janet's. Where 
was it straying to ? To the remembrance of Ethel ? — of the day that he 
had stood over her grave when they were placing her in it.'^ Had the 
time indeed come, or nearly come, to which he had, from that hour, 
looked forward ? — the time of his joining her ? He had never lost the 
vision : and perhaps the fiat, death, could have come to few who would 
meet it so serenely as Thomas Godolphin. It would scarcely be right 
to say welcome it; but, certain it was that the prospect was one of 
pleasantness rather than of pain to him. To one who has lived near 
to God on earth, the anticipation of the great change can bring no 
dismay. It brought none to Thomas Godolphin. 

But Thomas Godolphin had not done with earth and its cares yet. 

Bessy Godolphin was away from home that week. She had gone to 
spend it with some friends at a few miles' distance. Cecil was alone 
when Janet returned to the drawing-room. She had no suspicion of the 
sorrow that was overhanging the house. She had not seen Thomas go 
to the Folly, and felt surprised at his tardiness. 

" How late he will be, Janet ! " 

" Who 1 Thomas ! He is not going. He is not very well this even- 
ing," was the reply. 

Cecil thought nothing of it. How should she ? Janet buried her 
fears within her, and said no more. 

One was to dine at Lady Godolphin's Folly that night, who absorbed 
all Cecil's thoughts. Cecil Godolphin had had her romance in life ; as 
so many have it. It had been partially played out years ago. Not 
quite. Its sequel had still to come. She sat there listlessly ; her pretty 
hands resting inertly on her knee, her beautiful face tinged with the 
setting sunlight ; sat there thinking of him— Lord Averil. 



l82 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



A romance it had really been. Cecil Godolphin had paid a long visit 
lO the Honourable Mrs. Averil, some three or four years ago. She, 
Mrs. Averil, was in health then, fond of gaiety, and her house had many 
visitors. Amidst others, staying there, was Lord Averil : and before 
he and Cecil knew well what they were about, they had learned to love 
each other. Lord Averil was the first to awake from the pleasant 
dream : to know what it meant ; and he discreetly withdrew himself 
out of harm's way. Harm only to himself, as he supposed : he never 
suspected that the same love had won its way to Cecil Godolphin. A 
strictly honourable man, he would have been ready to kill himself in 
self-condemnation had he suspected that it had. Not until he had 
gone, did it come out to Cecil that he was a married man. When only 
eighteen years of age he had been drawn into one of those unequal and 
unhappy alliances that can only bring a flush to the brow in after-years. 
Many a hundred times had it dyed that of Lord Averil. Before he 
was twenty years of age, he had separated from his wife ; when pretty 
Cecil was yet a child : and the next ten years he had spent abroad, 
striving to outlive its remembrance. His own family, you may be 
sure, did not pain him by alluding to it, then, or after his return. . He 
had no residence now in the neighbourhood of Prior's Ash : he had 
sold it years ago. When he visited the spot, it was chiefly as the 
guest of Colonel Max, the master of the !fox-hounds: and in that 
way he had made the acquaintance of Charlotte Pain. Thus it hap- 
pened, when Cecil met him at Mrs. AveriFs, that she knew nothing of 
his being a married man. On Mrs. Averil's part, she never supposed 
that Cecil did not know it. Lord Averil supposed she knew it : and 
little enough in his own eyes has he looked in her presence, when the 
thought would flash over him, " How she must despise me for my mad 
folly! He had learned to love her ; to love her passionately : never 
so much as glancing at the thought that it could be reciprocated. He, 
a married man ! But this folly was no less mad than the other had 
been, and Lord Averil had the sense to remove himself from it. 

A day or two after his departure, Mrs. Averil received a letter from 
him. Cecil was in her dressing-room when she read it. 

" How strange ! was the comment of Mrs. Averil. " What do you 
think, Cecil ? " she added, lowering her voice. " When he reached town 
there was a communication waiting for him at his house, saying that 
his wife was dying, and praying him to go and see her." 

" His wife ? " echoed Cecil. " Whose wife ? 

" Lord Averil's. Have you forgotten that he had a wife ? I wish we 
could all really forget it. It has been the blight of his life." 

Cecil had discretion enough left in that unhappy moment not to 
betray that she had been ignorant of the fact. When her burning 
cheeks had a little cooled, she turned from the window where she had 
been hiding them, and escaped to her own room. The revelation had 
betrayed to her the secret of her own feelings for Lord Averil ; and in 
her pride and rectitude, she thought she should have died. 

A day or two more, and Lord Averil was a widower. He suffered 
some months to elapse, and then came to Prior's Ash, his object being 
Cecil Godolphin. He stayed at an hotel, and was a frequent visitor at 
Aehlydyat. Cecil beheved that he meant to ask her to be his wife ; 



CECIL'S ROMANCE. 



183 



and Cecil was not wrong. She could give herself up now to the full 
joy of loving him. 

Busy tongues, belonging to some young ladies who boasted more 
wit than discretion, hinted something of this to Cecil. Cecil, in her 
vexation at having her private feelings suspected, spoke slightingly of 
Lord Averil. " Did they think she would stoop to a widower ; to one 
who had made himself so notorious by his first marriage ? " she asked. 
And this, word for word, was repeated to Lord Averil. 

It was repeated to him by those false friends, and Cecil's haughty 
manner, as she spoke it, offensively commented upon. Lord Averil 
fully believed it. He judged that he had no chance with Cecil Godol- 
phin ; and, without speaking to her of what had been his intentions, he 
again left. 

But now, no suspicion of this conversation having been repeated to 
him, ever reached Cecil. She deemed his behaviour very bad. What- 
ever restraint he may have placed upon his manner towards her, when 
at Mrs. Averil's, he had been open enough since : and Cecil could only 
believe his conduct unjustifiable — the result of fickleness. She resolved 
to forget him. 

But she had not done so yet. AH this long time since, nearly three 
years, had Cecil been trying to do it, and it was not yet accomplished. 
She had received an offer from a young and handsome earl ; it would 
have been a match in every way desirable : but poor Cecil found that 
Lord Averil was too deeply seated in her heart for her to admit thought 
of another. And now Lord Averil was back again at Prior's Ash ; and, 
as Cecil had heard, was to dine that day at Lady Godolphin's Folly. 
He had called at Ashlydyat since his return, but she was out. 

She sat there, thinking of him : her feeling against him chiefly that 
of anger. She believed to this hour that he had used her ill ; that his 
behaviour had been unbecoming a gentleman. 

Her reflections were disturbed by the appearance of Mr. Snow. It 
was growing dusk then, and she wondered what brought him there so 
late : in fact, what brought him there at all. She turned and asked the 
question of Janet. 

" He has come to see Thomas," replied Janet. And Cecil noticed 
that her sister was sitting in a strangely still attitude, her head bowed 
down. But she did not connect it with its true cause. It was nothing 
unusual to see Janet lost in deep thought. 

" What is the matter with Thomas, that Mr. Snow should come now ? " 
inquired Cecil. 

k "He did not feel well, and sent for him." 

It was all that j[anet answered. And Cecil continued in bhssful 
ignorance of anything being wrong, and resumed her reflections on 
Lord Averil. 

Janet saw Mr. Snow before he went away. Afterwards she went to 
Thomas's room, and remained in it. Cecil stayed in the drawing-room, 
buried in her dream. The room was hghted, but the blinds were not 
drawn : Cecil was at the window, looking out into the bright moon- 
light. 

It must have been growing quite late when she discerned some one 
approaching Ashlydyat, on the road from Lady Godolphin's Folly. 



i84 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



From the height she fancied at first that it might be George ; but as 
the figure drew nearer, her heart gave a bound, and she saw that it was 
he upon whom her thoughts had been fixed. 

Yes, it was Lord Averil. When he mentioned to Charlotte Pain 
that he had a visit yet to pay to a sick friend, he had alluded to 
Thomas Godolphin. Lord Averil, since his return, had been struck 
with the change in Thomas Godolphin. It was more perceptible to 
him than to those who saw Thomas habitually. And when the apology 
came for Mr. Godolphin's absence, Lord Averil determined to call upon 
him that night. Though, in talking to Mrs. Pain, he almost let the time 
for it slip by. 

Cecil rose up when he entered. In broad daylight he might have seen 
beyond doubt her changing face, telling of emotion. Was he mistaken, 
in fancying that she was agitated ? His pulses quickened at the thought : 
for Cecil was as dear to him as she had ever been. 

" Will you pardon my intrusion at this hour ? " he asked, taking her 
hand, and bending towards her with his sweet smile. " It is later than 
I thought it was " — in truth, ten was striking that moment from the 
hall clock. " I was concerned to hear of Mr. Godolphin's illness, and 
wished to ascertain how he was, before returning to Prior's Ash." 

" He has kept his room this evening," repHed Cecil. " My sister is 
sitting with him. I do not think it is anything serious. But he has 
not appeared very well of late." 

" Indeed I trust it is nothing serious," warmly responded Lord 
Averil. 

Cecil fell into silence. She supposed they had told Janet of the 
visit, and that she would be coming in. Lord Averil went to the 
window. 

. " The same charming scene ! " he exclaimed. I think the moon- 
light view from this window most beautiful. The dark trees, and the 
white walls of Lady Godolphin's Folly, rising there, remain on my 
memory as a painted scene." 

He folded his arms and stood there, gazing still. Cecil stole a look 
up at him : at his pale, attractive face, with its expression of care. She 
had wondered once why that look of care should be conspicuous there ; 
but not after she became acquainted with his domestic history. 

" Have you returned to England to remain, Lord Averil ? " 

The question awoke him from his reverie. He turned to Cecil, and 
a sudden impulse prompted him to stake his fate on the die of the 
moment. It was not a lucky throw. 

" I would remain if I could induce one to share my name and home. 
Forgive me, Cecil, if I anger you by thus hastily speaking. Will you 
forget the past, and help me to forget it ? — will you let me make you my 
dear wife ? " 

In saying "Will you forget the past," Lord Averil had alluded to his 
first marriage. In his extreme sensitiveness upon that point, he doubted 
whether Cecil might not object to succeed the dead Lady Averil: he 
believed those hasty and ill-natured words, reported to him as having 
been spoken by her, bore upon that sore point alone. Cecil, on the 
contrary, assumed that her forgetfulness was asked for his own be- 
haviour to her, in so far as that he had gone away and left her without 



CHARLOTTE PAIN'S "TURN-OUT." 185 



word or explanation. She grew quite pale with anger. Lord Averil 
resumed, his manner earnest, his voice low and tender. 

" I have loved you, Cecil, from the first day that I saw you at Mrs. 
AveriPs. I dragged myself away from the place, because I loved you, 
fearing lest you might come to see my folly. It was worse than folly 
then, for I was not a free man. I have gone on loving you more and 
more, from that time to this. I went abroad this last time hoping to 
forget you ; striving to forget you . but I cannot do it, and the love has 
only become stronger. Forgive, I say, my urging it upon you in this 
moment's impulse." 

Poor Cecil was all at sea. "Went abroad, hoping to forget her; 
striving to forget her ! " It was worse and worse. She flung his hand 
away. 

" Oh, Cecil ! can you not love me ? " he exclaimed in agitation. 
" Will you not give me hope that you will sometime be my wife ? " 

" No, I cannot love you. I will not give you hope. I would rather 
marry any one in the world than you. You ought to be ashamed of 
yourself. Lord Averil ! " 

Not a very dignified rejoinder. And Cecil, what with anger, what 
with love^ burst into even less dignified tears, and left the room in a 
passion. Lord Averil bit his hps to pain. 

Janet entered, unsuspicious. He turned from the window, and 
smoothed his brow, gathering what equanimity he could, as he pro- 
ceeded to inquire after Mr. Godolphin. 



CHAPTER IV. 

CHARLOTTE PAIN'S " TURN-OUT." 

A STYLISH vehicle, high enough for a fire-escape, its green wheels 
picked out with gleaming red, was dashing up the streets of Pricr's 
Ash. A lady was seated in it, driving its pair of blood-horses, whose 
restive mettle appeared more fitted for a man's guidance than a 
woman's. You need not be told that it was Charlotte Pain ; no one 
else of her sex in Prior's Ash would have driven such a turn-out. 
Prior's Ash, rather at a loss what name to give it, for the like of it had 
never been seen in that sober place, christened it " Mrs. Pain's turn- 
out :" so, if you grumble at the appellation, you must grumble at them, 
not at me. 

Past the Bank it flew ; when, as if a sudden thought appeared to 
take the driver, it suddenly whirled round, to the imminent danger of 
the street in general, retraced its steps past the Bank, dashed round the 
corner of Crosse Street, and drew up at the entrance to Mr. George 
Godolphin's. The servant sprang from the seat behind. 
Inquire if Mrs. George Godolphin is within." 

Mrs. George Godolphin was within, and Charlotte entered. Across 
the hall, up the handsome staircase lined with paintings, to the still 
more handsome drawing-room, swept she, conducted by a servant. 
Margery looked out at an opposite door, as Charlotte entered that of 



i86 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



the drawing-room, her curious eyes taking in at a glance Charlotte's 
attire. Charlotte wore a handsome mauve brocaded skirt, trailing 
the ground at the very least half a yard behind her, and a close habit 
of mauve velvet. A black hat with a turned-up brim, and a profusion 
of mauve feathers, adorned her head, and a little bit of gauze, mauve- 
coloured also, came half-way down her face, fitting tightly round the 
nose and cheeks. At that period, this style of dress was very un- 
common. * 

Margery retired with a sniff. Had it been any one she approved, 
any especial friend of her mistress, she would have invited her into 
her mistress's presence, to the httle boudoir, where Maria was seated. 
A pretty boudoir, tastefully furnished. The bedroom, dressing-room, 
and this boudoir communicated with each other. Being who it was, 
Margery allowed the drawing-room the honour of receiving the visitor. 

Maria sat at a table, her drawing materials before her. Miss Meta, 
perched in a high chair, was accommodated with a pencil and paper 
opposite. "It's Mrs. Pain in a mask," was Margery's salutation. 

Maria laid down her pencil. " Mrs. Pain in a mask ! " she echoed. 

" It looks like nothing, else, ma'am," responded Margery. " / never 
saw Christian folks make themselves into such spectacles before. It's 
to be hoped she won't go in that guise to call at Ashlydyat : Miss 
Janet would be sending for the mad doctor." 

Maria smiled. "You never admire Mrs. Pain's style of dress, 
Margery." 

" It's not taking," rejoined Margery. " Honest faces would as soon 
see themselves standing out from a brass pan, as with one of them 
brazen hats stuck upon them." 

Apart from her prejudices against Mrs. Pain — whatever those pre- 
judices might be — it was evident that Margery did not admire the 
fashionable head-gear. Maria moved to the door, and Miss Meta 
scrambled off her chair to follow her. " Meta go too, mamma." 

Margery caught the child up as if she were snatching her from a 
fiery furnace, smothered her in her arms, and whispered unheard-of 
visions of immediate cakes and sweetmeats, that were to be had by 
ascending to the nursery, and bore her away in triumph. Did she fear 
there was contamination for the child in Mrs. Pain's hat ? 

Maria, not having observed the bit of by-play, proceeded to the 
presence of Charlotte. Not a greater contrast had there been between 
them in those old days at Broomhead, than there was now. Maria 
was the same quiet, essentially lady-like girl as of yore : she looked 
but a girl still, in her pretty muslin dress. Charlotte was standing 
at the window, watching her restless horses, which the servant was 
driving about in the front street, but could scarcely manage. She put 
back her hand to Maria. 

" How are you to-day, Mrs. George Godolphin ? Excuse my appa- 
rent rudeness : I am looking at my horses. If the man cannot keep 
them within bounds, I must go down myself." 

Maria took her place by the side of Charlotte. The horses looked 
terrific animals in her eyes, very much inclined to kick the carriage 
to pieces and to bolt into the Bank afterwards. " Didjyou drive them 
here?" 



CHARLOTTE PAIN'S "TURN-OUT/ 



187 



" Nobody else can drive them," replied Charlotte with a laugh. I 
should like to seduce Kate behind them some day when she is at 
Prior's Ash : she would be in a fit with fright before we were home 
again." 

" How can you risk your own life, Mrs. Pain?" 

"My life! that is a good joke," said Charlotte. "If I could not 
manage the horses, I should not drive them. Did you notice the one 
I was riding yesterday, when you met me with your husband — a party 
of us together ? " 

" Not particularly," repHed Maria. " It was just at the turn of the 
road, you know. I think I looked chiefly at George." 

" You ought to have noticed my horse. You must see him another 
time. He" is the most splendid animal ; down from London only the 
previous day. I rode him yesterday for the first time." 

" I should not detect any of his beauties ; 1 scarcely know one horse 
from another," acknowledged Maria. 

"Ah! You are not particularly observant," returned Charlotte in 
good-humoured sarcasm. " The horse was a present to me. He cost 
a hundred and thirty guineas. Those animals below are getting quieter 
now." 

She withdrew from the window, sitting down on a sofa. Maria took 
a seat near her. " We had been to see Mrs. Averil yesterday when we 
met you," observed Maria. " She is still a great sufferer." 

"So Lord Averil told me," answered Charlotte. "He dined at the 
Folly yesterday." 

" Did he ? George did not mention that Lord Averil was of the 
party. Did you dine with them ? " 

"Not I," answered Charlotte. "It was bore enough to have them 
in the drawing-room afterwards. Only a few of them came in. As to 
your husband, I never set eyes upon him at all." 

" He came home early. I think his head ached. He " 

" Oh, he did come home, then ! " interrupted Charlotte. 

Maria looked surprised. "' Of course he came home. Why should 
he not ? " 

" How should I know why ? " was Charlotte's answer. " This house 
has the bother of it to-night, I hear. It zs nothing but a bother, a 
gentleman's dinner-party ! " 

" It is a sort of business party to-night, I believe," observed Maria. 

"Verrall is coming. He told me so. Do you know how Mr. 
Godolphin is ? " 

" He seems as well as usual. He has come to-day, and I saw him 
for a minute. George told me that he did not appear at dinner yester- 
day. Margery — -" 

A commotion in the street. Charlotte flew to one of the wmdovvs, 
opened it, and stretched herself out. But she could not see the car- 
riage, which was then in Crosse Street. A mob was collecting and 
shouting. 

"I suppose I had better go. That stupid man never can keep horses 
in good humour, if they have any spirit. Good-bye, Mrs. George 
Godolphin." 

She ran down to the hall door, giving no time for a servant to show 



l88 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



her out. Maria proceeded to her boudoir, which looked into Crosse 
Street, to see whether anything was the matter. 

• Something might have been, but that George Godolphin, hearing 
the outcry, had flown out to the aid of the servant. The man, in his 
fear — he was a timid man with horses, and it was a wonder Charlotte 
kept him — had got out of the carriage. George leaped into it, took 
the reins and the whip, and succeeded in restoring the horses to what 
Charlotte called good humour. Maria's heart beat when she saw her 
husband there : she, like the man, was timid. George, however, 
alighted unharmed, and stood talking with Charlotte. He was without 
his hat. Then he handed Charlotte in, and stood looking up and 
talking to her again, the seat being about a mile above his head. 
Charlotte, at any rate, had no fear ; she nodded a final adieu to George, 
and drove away at a fast pace, George gazing after her. 

Intimate as George Godolphin was with Charlotte Pain, no such 
thought as that of attributing it to a wrong motive ever occurred to 
Maria. She had been jealous of Charlotte Pain in the old days, when 
she was Maria Hastings, dreading that George might choose her for 
his wife : but with their marriage all such feeling ceased. Maria was 
an English gentlewoman in the best sense of the term ; of a refined, 
retiring nature, simple and modest of speech, innocent of heart : to 
associate harm now with her husband and Charlotte, was a thing next 
to impossible for her to glance at. Unbiased by others, she would 
never be likely to glance at it. She did not like Charlotte : where tastes 
and qualities are as opposed as they were in her and Charlotte Pain, 
mutual preference is not easy ; but, to suspect any greater cause for 
dislike, was foreign to Maria's nature. Had Maria even received a 
hint that the fine saddle-horse, boasted of by Charlotte as worthy of 
Maria's especial observation, and costing a hundred and thirty guineas, 
was a present from her husband, she would have attached no motive 
to the gift, but that of kindness ; given him no worse word than a hint 
at extravagance. Maria could almost as soon have disbelieved in 
herself, as have disbelieved in the cardinal virtues of George Godolphin. 

It was the day of one of George's dinner-parties : as Charlotte has 
announced for our information. Fourteen were expected to sit down, 
inclusive of himself and his brother. Most of them county men ; men 
who did business with the Bank ; Mr. Verrall and Lord Averil being 
two of them : but Mr. Verrall did not do business with the Bank, and 
was not looked upon as a county man. It was not Maria's custom to 
appear at all at these parties ; she did not imitate Charlotte Pain in 
playing the hostess afterwards in the drawing-room. Sometimes Maria 
would spend these evenings out ; at Ashlydyat, or at the Rectory : 
sometimes, as was her intention on this evening, she would remain in 
her pretty boudoir, leaving the house at liberty. She had been busy 
at her drawing all day, and had not quitted it to stir abroad. 

Mr. George had stirred abroad. Mr. George had taken a late after- 
noon ride with Charlotte Pain. He came home barely in time to dress. 
The Bank was closed for the day: the clerks had all gone, except 
one, the old cashier, Mr. Hurde. He sometimes stayed later than 
the rest. 

Any private letters for me ? " inquired George, hastening into the 



CHARLOTTE PAIN'S "TURN-OUT." 



office, whip in hand, and devouring the letter>rack with eager eyes, 
where the unopened letters were usually placed. 

The cashier, a tall man once, but stooping now, with silver spec- 
tacles and white whiskers, stretched up his head to look also. " There's 
one, sir," he cried, before George had quite crossed the office. 

George made a grab at the letter. It stuck in the rack, and he gave 
forth an impatient word. A blank look of disappointment came over 
his face, when he saw the direction. 

" This is not for me. This is for Mr. Hastings. Who sorted the 
letters ? " ^ 

" Mr. Hastings, I believe, sir, as usual." 

" What made him put his own letter into the rack ? " muttered 
George to himself. He went about the office; went into the private 
room and searched his own table. No, there was no letter for him. 
Mr. Hurde remembered that Mr. George Godolphin had been put out 
in the morning by not receiving an expected letter. 

George looked at his watch. " There's no time to go to Verrall's," 
he thought. " And he would be starting to come here by the time I 
reached the Folly." 

Up to his own room to dress, which was not a long process. He 
then entered his wife's boudoir. 

" Drawing still, Maria ? " 

She looked up with a bright glance. " I have been so industrious ! 
I have been drawing nearly all day. See ! I have nearly finished this." 

George stood by the table listlessly, his thoughts preoccupied : not 
pleasantly preoccupied, either. Presently he began turning over the 
old sketches in Maria's portfolio. Maria left her seat, and stood by 
her husband, her arm round his neck. He was now sitting sideways 
on a chair. 

" I put some of these drawings into the portfolio this morning," she 
observed. " I found them in a box in the lumber-room. They had 
not been disinterred, I do believe, since they came here from the 
Rectory. Do you remember that one, George ? " 

He took up the sketch she pointed to. A few moments, and then 
recollection flashed over him. " It is a scene near Broomhead. That 
is Bray's cottage." 

" How glad I am that you recognise it!" she cried gleefully. It 
proves that I sketched it faithfully. Do you remember the day I did 
it, George ? " 

George could not remember that. " Not particularly," he answered. 

" Oh, George ! It was the day when I was frightened by that snake 
—or whatever it was. You and I and Charlotte Pain were there. We 
took refuge in Bray's house." 

" Refuge from the snake ? " asked George. 

Maria laughed. " Lady Godolphin came up, and said I ought to go 
there and rest, and take some water. How terribly frightened I was ! 
I can recall it still. Bray wanted to marry us afterwards," she con- 
tinued, laughing more heartily. 

"Bray would have married me to both you and Charlotte for a 
crown a-piece," said George. 

" Were you in earnest when you asked me to let him do it ? " 



I90 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



she dreamily inquired, after a pause, her thoughts cast back to the 
past. 

" I dare say I was, Maria. We do foohsh things sometimes. Had 
you said yes, I should have thought you a silly girl afterwards for your 
pains." 

" Of course you would. Do you see that old Welshwoman in the 
doorway ? " resumed Maria, pointing to the drawing. She was a nice 
old body, in spite of her pipe. I wonder whether she is still alive ? 
Perhaps Margery knows. Margery had a letter from her sister this 
morning." 

" Had she?" carelessly returned George. " I saw there was a letter 
for her with the Scotch postmark. Has Bray come to grief yet ? " 

" I fancy they are always in grief, by the frequent appeals to Margery. 
Lady Godolphin is kind to the wife. She tells Margery if it were not 
for my lady, she should starve." 

An arrival was heard as Maria spoke, and George rang the bell. It 
was answered by Maria's maid, but George said he wanted the butler. 
The man appeared. 

" Has Mr. Verrall come ? " 

" No, sir. It is Mr. Godolphin." 

^' When Mr. Verrall comes, show him into the Bank parlour, and call 
me. I wish to see him before he goes into the drawing-room." 

The man departed with his order. George went into the adjoining 
bedroom. A few minutes, and some one else was heard to come in, and 
run up the stairs with eager steps. It was followed by an impatient 
knock at Maria's door. 

It proved to be Isaac Hastings. A fine-looking young man, with a 
sensible countenance. " Have they gone in to dinner yet, Mada? " he 
hastily cried. 

" No. It is not time. No one has come but Mr. Godolphin." 
" I did such a stupid trick ! I " 

"Is it you, Isaac ? " interrupted George, returning to the room. " I 
could not think who it was, rushing up." 

" I wanted to catch you, sir, before you went in to dinner," replied 
Isaac, holding out a letter to George. " It came for you this after- 
noon," he continued, " and I put it, as I thought, into the rack ; and 
one for myself, which also came, I put into my pocket. Just now I 
found I had brought yours away, and left mine." 

''Yours is in the rack now," said George. "I wondered what 
brought it there." 

He took the letter, glanced at its superscription, and retired to the 
window to read it. There appeared to be but a very few lines. George 
read it twice over, and then lifted his flushed face : flushed, as it 
seemed, with pain — with a perplexed, hopeless sort of expression. 
Maria could see his face reflected in the glass. She turned to him : 

" George, what is it? You have had bad news ! " 

He crushed the letter in his hand. " Bad news ! Nothing of 
the sort. Why should yon think that? It is a business letter 
that I ought to have had yesterday, though, and I am vexed at the 
delay." 

He left the room again. Isaac prepared to depart. 



A REVELATION. 



Will you stay and take tea with me, Isaac ? " asked Maria. " I 
have dined. I am expecting Rose." 

" I am taking tea already/' answered Isaac, with a laugh. I was 
at Grace's. We were beginning tea, when I put my hand into my 
pocket to take out my letter, and found it was George Godolphin's." 
You were not in haste to read your own letter," returned Maria. 
"No. I knew who it was from. There was no hurry. I ran all 
the way from Grace's here, and now I must run back again. Good-bye, 
Maria." 

Isaac went away. George was in and out of the room, walking about 
in a restless manner. Several arrivals had been heard, and Maria felt 
sure that all the guests, or nearly all, must have arrived. " Why don't 
you go to them, George ? " she asked. 

The hour for dinner struck as she spoke, and George left the room. 
He did not enter the drawing-room, but went down and spoke to the 
butler. 

"Has Mr. Verrall not come yet ? " 
" No, sir. Every one else is here." 

George retraced his steps and entered the drawing-room. He was 
gay George again : handsome George; not a line of perplexity could 
be traced on his open brow, not a shade of care in his bright blue eye. 
He shook hands with his guests, offering only a half apology for his 
tardiness, and saying that he knew his brother was there to replace him. 

Some minutes of busy conversation, and then it flagged : another 
few minutes of it, and a second flag. Thomas Godolphin whispered 
to his brother. " George, I should not wait. Mr. Verrall cannot be 
coming." 

George went quite red with anger, or some other feeling. " Not be 
coming? Of course he is coming? Nothing is likely to detain him." 

Thomas said no more. But the waiting Well, you all know 

what it is, this awkward waiting for dinner. By-and-by the butler 
looked into the room. George thought it might be a hint that dinner 
was spoiling, and he reluctantly gave orders that it should be served. 

A knock at the door — a loud knock — resounding through the house. 
George Godolphin's face lighted up. " There he is ! " he exclaimed. 
" But it is too bad of him to keep us waiting." 

There he is not, George might have said, could he have seen through 
the closed door the applicant standing there. It was only Maria's even- 
ing visitor, pretty Rose Hastings. 



CHAPTER V. 

A REVELATION. 

The dinner-table was spacious, consequently the absence of one w^as 
conspicuous. Mr. Verrall's chair was still left for him : he would come 
yet, George said. No clergyman was present, and Thomas Godolphin 
said grace. He sat at the foot of the table, opposite to his brother. 
"We are thirteen 1 " exclaimed Sir John Pevans, a young baronet, 



192 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAf. 



who had beeii reared a milksop, and feared consumption for himself. 
" I don't much hke it. It is the ominous number, you know." 

Some of them laughed. " What is that peculiar superstition ? " asked 
Colonel Max. ^' I have never been able to understand it." 

The superstition is, that if thirteen sit down to dinner, one of them 
is sure to die before the year is out," replied young Pevans, speaking 
with great seriousness. 

" Why is thirteen not as good a number to sit down as any other ? " 
cried Colonel Max, humouring the baronet. "As good as fourteen, 
for instance ? " 

" It's the odd number, I suppose." 

" The odd number. It's no more the odd number, Pevans, than any 
other number's odd. What do you say to eleven ? — what do you say 
to fifteen ? " 

" I can't explain it," returned Sir John. " I only know that the 
superstition exists, and that I have noticed, in more instances than one, 
that it has been borne out. Three or four parties who have sat down 
thirteen to dinner, have lost one of them before the year has come 
round. You laugh at me, of course ; I have been laughed at before : 
but suppose you notice it now ? We are thirteen of us : see if we are 
all ahve by the end of the year." 

Thomas Godolphin, in his inmost heart, thought it not unlikely that 
one of them, at any rate, would not be there. Several faces were broad 
with amusement : the most serious of them was Lord Averil's. 

" You don't believe in it, Averil!" muttered Colonel Max in surprise, 
as he gazed at him. 

" I ! " was the answer. " Certainly not. Why should you ask it? " 

" You look so grave over it." 

" I never like to joke, though it be only by a smile, on the subject of 
death," replied Lord Averil. " I once received a lesson upon the point, 
and it will serve me my life." 

" Will your lordship tell us what it was ! " interposed Sir John, who 
had been introduced to Lord Averil to-day for the first time. 

" I cannot do so now," rephed Lord Averil. " The subject is not 
suited to a merry party," he frankly added. " But it would not help 
to bear out your superstition, Sir John : you are possibly thinking that 
it might do so." 

" If I have sat down once thirteen, I have sat down fifty times," cried 
Colonel Max, " and we all lived the year out and many a year on to it. 
You are a sociable fellow to invite out to dinner, Pevans ! I fancy Mr. 
George Godolphin must be thinking so." 

Mr. George Godolphin appeared to be thinking of something that 
rendered him somewhat distrait. In point of fact, his duties as host 
were considerably broken by listening to the door. Above the con- 
versation his ear was strained, hoping for the knock that should an- 
nounce Mr. Verrall. It was of course strange that he neither appeared 
nor sent an excuse. But no knock seemed to come : and George 
could only rally his powers and forget Mr. Verrall. 

It was a recherche r^^diSt, George Godolphin's state dinners always 
were so. No trouble or expense was spared for them. Luxuries, in 
season and out of season, would be there. The turtle would seem 



A REVELATION. 



193 



richer at his table than at any other, the venison more delicate ; the 
Moselle of fuller flavour, the sparkling hermitage of rarest vintage. 

The evening passed on. Some of the gentlemen were solacing them- 
selves with a cup of coffee, when the butler slipped a note into his 
master's hand. " The man waits for an answer, sir,'' he whispered. 
And George glided out of the room, and opened the note. 

"Dear Godolphin, 

" I am ill and lonely, and have halted here midway in my 
journey for a night's rest before going on again, which I must do at 
six in the morning. Come in for half an hour — there's a good fellow ! 
I don't know when we may meet again. The regiment embarks 
to-morrow ; and can't embark without me. Come at once, or I shall be 
gone to bed. 

" G. St. Aubyn." 

One burning, almost irrepressible desire had hung over George all 
the evening— that he could run up to VerralFs and learn the cause of his 
absence. Mr. Verrall's absence in itself would not in the least have 
troubled George ; but he had a most urgent reason for wishing to see 
him : hence his anxiety. To leave his guests to themselves would have 
been scarcely the thmg to do : but this note appeared to afford just the 
excuse wanted. At any rate, George determined to make it an excuse. 
The note was dated from the principal inn of the place. 

" One of the waiters brought this, 1 suppose. Pierce ? " he said to the 
butler. 

"Yes, sir." 

" My compliments, and I will be with Captain St. Aubyn directly." 

George went into the room again, and drew his brother aside. 

" Thomas, you'll be host for me for half an hour," he whispered. 
" St. Aubyn has just sent me an urgent summons to go and see him at 
the Bell. He was passing through Prior's Ash, and is forced to halt 
and he up : he's very ill. I'll soon be back again." 

Away he went. Thomas felt unusually well that evening, and ex- 
erted himself for his brother. Once out of the house, George hesitated. 
Should he dash up to Lady Godolphin's Folly first, and ease his mind, 
or should he go first to the Bell ? The Bell was very near, but in the 
opposite direction to Ashlydyat. He turned first to the Bell, and was 
soon in the presence of Captain St. Aubyn, an old friend, now bound 
for Malta. 

" I am sorry to have sent for you," exclaimed Captain St. Aubyn, 
holding out his hand to George. " I hear you have friends this evening." 

"It is just the kindest thing you could have done," impulsively 
answered George. " I would have given a five-pound note out of my 
pocket for a plea to absent myself ; and your letter came and afforded 
it." 

What more he chose to explain was between themselves : it was not 
much : and in five minutes George was on his way to Lady Godolphin's 
Folly. On he strode, his eager feet scarcely touching the ground. He 
hfted his hat and bared his brow, hot with anxiety, to the night air. 
It was a very hght night, the moon high : and, as George pushed 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 13 



194 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



on through the dark grove of the Folly, he saw Charlotte Pain 
emerging from the same at a little distance, a dark shawl, or mantle, 
thrown completely over her head and figure, apparently for the purpose 
of disguise or concealment. Her face was turned for a moment towards 
the moonlight, and there was no mistaking the features of Charlotte 
Pain. Then she crouched down, and sped along under the friendly 
cover of the trees. George hastened to overtake her. 

But when he got up with her, as he thought, there was no Charlotte 
there. There was no any one. Where had she crept to ? How had 
she disappeared ? She must have plunged into the trees again. But 
George was in too much haste then to see Mr. Verrall, to puzzle himself 
about Charlotte. He crossed to the terrace, and rang the bell. 

Were the servants making merry ? He had to ring again. A toler- 
able peal this time. Its echoes might have been heard at Ashlydyat. 
Is Mr. Verrall at home ? " 
No, sir. Mrs. Pain is." 

Mrs. Pain is not," thought George to himself. But he tollowed the 
man to the drawing-room. 

To his indescribable astonishment, there sat Charlotte, at work. 
She was in evening dress, her gown and hair interlaced with jewels. 
Calmly and quietly sat she, very quietly for her, her King Charley 
reposing upon a chair at her side, fast asleep. It was next to impossible 
to fancy, or believe, that she could have been outside a minute or two 
ago, racing in and out of the trees, as if dodging some one, perhaps 
himself. And yet, had it been necessary, George thought he could 
have sworn that the face he saw was the face of Charlotte. So be- 
wildered did he feel, as to be diverted for a moment from the business 
which had brought him there. 

" You may well be surprised ! " cried Charlotte, looking at him ; and 
George noticed as she spoke that there was some peculiar expression in 
her face not usual to it. " To see me at work is one cf the world's 
wonders. A crochet mat took my fancy to-day in a shop, and I bought 
it, thinking I would make one like it. Instead of making one, 1 have 
managed to unravel the other." 

She pointed to the ground as she spoke. There, half covered by her 
dress, lay a heap of crinkled cotton ; no doubt the unravelled mat. 
Charlotte was plying her needle again with assiduity, her eyes studying 
the instructions at her elbow. 

" How very quickly you must have come in ! " exclaimed George. 

" Come in from where ? " asked Charlotte. 
As I went up to the door, I saw you stooping near the grove on the 
left, something dark over your head." 

" You dreamt it," said Charlotte. " I have not been out." 

" But I certainly did see you," repeated George. ^ I could not be 
mistaken. You — were I fanciful, Charlotte, I should say you were in 
mischief, and wanted to escape observation. You were stooping under 
the shade of the trees and running along quickly." 

Charlotte lifted her face and looked at him with wondering eyes. 
" Are you joking, or are you in earnest ? " asked she. 

" I never was more in earnest in my life. I could have staked my 
existence upon its being you." 



A REVELATION. 



" Then I assure you I have not stirred out of this room since I came 
into it from dinner. What possessed me to try this senseless work, 
I cannot tell," she added, flinging it across the floor in a momentary 
accession of temper. " It has given me a headache, and they brought 
me some tea." 

" You are looking very poorly," remarked George. 

" Am I .'^ I don't often have such a headache as this. The pain is 
here, over my left temple. Bathe it for me, will you, George ? " 

A handkerchief and some eau-de-Cologne were lying on the table 
beside her. George gallantly undertook the office : but he could not 
get over his wonder. " I'll tell you what, Charlotte. If it was not your- 
self, it must have been your " 

"It must have been my old bhnd black dog," interrupted Charlotte. 

He has a habit of creeping about the trees at night. There! I am 
sure that's near enough. I don't believe it was anything or any one." 

" Your double, I was going to say," persisted George. " I never 
saw your face if I did not think I saw it then. It proves how mis- 
taken we may be. Where's Verrall ? A pretty trick he played me this 
evening." 

" What trick ? " repeated Charlotte. " Verrall's gone to London." 
" Gone to London ! " shouted George, his tone one of painful dismay. 
" It cannot be." 

" It /i-," said Charlotte. " When I came in from our ride I found 
Verrall going ofl" by train. He had received a telegraphic message, 
which took him away." 

" Why did he not call upon me ? He knew — he knew — the necessity 
there was for me to see him. He ought to have come to me." 

I suppose he was in a hurry to catch the train," said Charlotte. 

" Why did he not send ? " 

"He did send. I heard him send a verbal message by one of the 
servants, to the eflect that he was summoned unexpectedly to London, 
and could not, therefore, attend your dinner. How early you have 
broken up ! " 

" We have not broken up. I left my guests to see after Verrall. 
No message was brought to me." 

" Then I will inquire," began Charlotte, rising, George gently 
pushed her back. 

"It is of Httle consequence," he said. " It might have saved me 
some suspense; but I am glad I got dinner over without knowing it. 
I 7mist see Verrall." 

Charlotte carried her point, and rang the bell. "If you are glad, 
George, it is no extenuation for the negligence of the servants. They 
may be forgetting some message of more importance, if they are left 
unreproved now." 

But forgotten the message had not been. The servant, it appeared, 
had misunderstood his master, and carried the message to Ashlydyat, 
instead of to the Bank. 

"How very stupid he must have been!" remarked Charlotte to 
George, when the explanation was given. " I think some people have 
only half their share of brains." 

" Charlotte, I must see Verrall. I received a letter this evening from 



196 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



London which I ought to have had yesterday, and it has driven me to 
my wits' end." 

" About the old business ? " questioned Charlotte. 
Just so. Look here." 

He took the letter from his pocket : the letter brought back to him 
by Isaac Hastings, and which he had assured Maria had not contained 
bad news : opened it, and handed it to Charlotte for her perusal. Better, 
possibly, for Mr. George Godolphin that he had made a bosom friend 
of his wife than of Charlotte Pain ! Better for gentlemen in general, 
it may be, that they should tell their secrets to their wives than to their 
wives' would-be rivals — however comprehensive the fascinations of these 
latter ladies may be. George, however, had made his own bed, as we 
all do ; and George would have to lie upon it. 

" What am I to do, Charlotte ? " 

Charlotte sat bending over the note, and pressing her forehead. Her 
look was one of perplexity ; perplexity great as George's. 

" It is a dangerous position," she said at length. ''If not 
averted " 

She came to a dead pause, and their eyes met. 

"Ay!" he repeated — "if not averted! Nothing would remain for 
me but " 

" Hush, George," said she, laying her hand upon his lips, and then 
letting it fall upon his fingers, where it remained. 

There they sat, it is hard to say how long, their heads together, talk- 
ing earnestly. Charlotte was in his full confidence. Whatever may 
have been the nature, the depth of his perplexities, she fathomed them. 
At length George sprang up with a start. 

" I am forgetting everything. I forgot those people were still at 
home, waiting for me. Charlotte, I must go." 

She rose, put her arm within his, and took a step with him, as if she 
would herself let him out. Perhaps she was in the habit of letting him 
out. 

" Not there ! not that way ! " she abruptly said, for George was turn- 
ing to unclose the shutters of the window. " Come into the next room, 
and I'll open that." 

The next room was in darkness. They opened the window, and stood 
yet a minute within the room, talking anxiously still. Then he left 
her, and went forth. 

He intended to take the lonely road homewards, as being the nearer ; 
that dark, narrow road you may remember to have heard of, where the 
ash-trees met overhead, and, as report went, a ghost was in the habit 
of taking walking exercise by night. George had no thought for ghosts 
just then: he had a " ghost" within him, frightful enough to scare away 
a whole lane full of the others. Nevertheless, George Godolphin did 
take a step backward with a start, when, just within the Ash-tree Walk, 
after passing the turnstile, there came a dismal groan from some dark 
figure seated on a broken bench. 

It was all dark together there. The ash-trees hid the moon; George 
had just emerged from where her beams shone bright and open ; and 
not at first did he distinguish who was sitting there. But his eyes grew 
accustomed to the obscurity. 



A REVELATION. 



197 



" Thomas ! " he cried, in consternation. " Is it you ? " 

For answer, Thomas Godolphin caught hold of his brother, bent 
forward, and laid his forehead upon George's arm, another deep groan 
breaking from him. 

That George Godolphin would rather have been waylaid by a real 
ghost, than by his brother at that particular time and place, was cer- 
tain. Better that the whole world should detect any undue anxiety for 
Mr. Verrall's companionship just then, than that Thomas Godolphin 
should do so. At least, George thought so : but conscience makes 
cowards of us all. Nevertheless, he gave his earnest sympathy to his 
brother. 

" Lean on me, Thomas. Let me support you. How have you been 
taken ill?" 

Another minute, and the paroxysm was past. Thomas wiped the 
dew from his brow, and George sat down on the narrow bench beside 
him. 

How came you to be here alone, Thomas ? Where is your car- 
riage ? " 

" I ordered the carriage early, and it came just as you had gone out," 
explained Thomas. " Feeling well, I sent it away as I had to wait, 
saying I would walk home. The pain overtook me just as I reached 
this spot, and but for the bench I should have fallen. But, George, 
what brings you here 1 " was the next very natural question. " You 
told me you were going to the Bell ? " 

" So I was ; so I did," said George, speaking volubly. " St. Aubyn 
I found very poorly ; I told him he would be best in bed, and came 
away. It was a nice night ; I felt inclined for a run, so I came up here 
to ask Verrall what had kept him from dinner. He was sent for to 
London, it seems, and the stupid servant took his apology to Ashlydyat, 
instead of to the Bank." 

Thomas Godolphin might well have rejoined, " If Verrall is away, 
where have you stopped ? " But he made no remark. 

" Have they all gone?" asked George, alluding to his guests. 
They have all gone. I made it right with them respecting your 
absence. My being there was almost the same thing : they appeared 
to regard it so. George, I believe I must have your arm as far as the 
house. See what an old man I am getting." 

" Will you not rest longer ? I am in no hurry, as they have left. 
What can this pain be, that seems to be attacking you of late ? " 

" Has it never occurred to you what it may be?" quietly rejoined 
Thomas. 

" No," replied George. But he noticed that Thomas's tone was 
peculiar, and he began to run over in his own mind all the phar- 
macopoeia of ailments that flesh is heir to. " It cannot be rheumatism, 
Thomas ? " 

"It is something worse than rheumatism," said Thomas, in his 
serene, ever-thoughtful way. " A short time, George, and you will be 
master of Ashlydyat." 

George's heart seemed to stand still, and then bound onwards in a 
tumult. The words struck upon every chord of feeling he possessed — 
struck from more causes than one. 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" What do you mean, Thomas ? What do you fear may be the matter 
with you ? " 

" Do you remember what killed our mother?" 
There was a painful pause. ^' Oh, Thomas ! " 
" It is so," said Thomas, quietly. 

" I hope you are mistaken 1 I hope you are mistaken ! " reiterated 
George. ^' Have you had advice? You must have advice." 

I have had it. Snow confirms my own suspicions. I desired the truth." 

" Who's Snow ? " returned George, disparagingly. " Go up to London, 
Thomas ; consult the best man there. Or telegraph for one of them to 
come down to you." 

" For the satisfaction of you all, I may do so," he rephed. But it 
cannot benefit me, George." 

Good Heavens, what a dreadful thing ! " returned George, with 
feeling. " What a blow to fall upon you I " 

" You would regard it so, were it to fall upon you ; and naturally. 
You are young, joyous ; you have your wife and child. I have none of 
these attributes : and — if I had them all, we are in the hands of One 
who knows what is best for us." 

George Godolphin did not feel very joyous just then : had not felt 
particularly joyous for a long time. Somehow, his own inward care 
was more palpable to him than this news, sad though it was, imparted 
by his brother. He lifted his right hand to his temples and kept it 
there. Thomas suffered his right hand to fall upon George's left, which 
rested on his knee. A more holy contact than that imparted by Mrs. 
Charlotte Pain's. 

Don't grieve, George. I am more than resigned. I think of it as 
a happy change. This world, taken at its best, is full of care : if we 
seem free from it one year, it only falls upon us more unsparingly the 
next. It is wisely ordered : were earth made too pleasant for us, we 
might be wishing that it could be permanently our home." 

Heaven knew that George had enough care upon him. He knew it. 
But he was not weary of the world. Few do weary of it, whatever may 
be their care, until they have learned to look for a better. 

" In the days gone by, I have felt tempted to wonder why Ethel 
should have been taken," resumed Thomas Godolphin. I see now 
how merciful was the fiat, George. I have been more thoughtful, more 
observant, perhaps, than many are ; and I have learnt to see, to know, 
how marvellously all these fiats are fraught with mercy ; full of gloom 
as they may seem to us. It would have been a bitter trial to me to 
leave her here unprotected ; in deep sorrow ; perhaps with young 
children, I scarcely think I could have been reconciled to go ; and I 
know what her grief would have been. All's for the best." 

Most rare was it for undemonstrative Thomas Godolphin thus to ex- 
press his hidden sentiments. George never knew him to do so before. 
Time and place were peculiarly fitted for it : the still, light night, 
telling of peace; the dark trees around, the blue sky overhead. In 
these paroxysms of disease, Thomas felt brought almost face to face 
with death. 

"It will be a blow to Janet ! " exclaimed George, the thought striking 
him. 



A REVELATION. 



199 



She will feel it as one." 
" Thomas ! can nothing be done for you ? " was the impulsive rejoin- 
der, spoken in all hearty good-feeling. 

" Could it be done for my mother, George ? " 

" I know. But, since then, science has made strides. Diseases, once 
deemed incurable, yield now to skill and enlightenment. I wish you 
would go to London ! " 

" There are some few diseases which bring death with them, in spite 
of human skill : will bring it to the end of time," rejoined Thomas 
Godolphin. " This is one of them." 

Well, Thomas, you have given me my pill for to-night : and for a 
great many more nights, and days too. I wish I had not heard it ! 
But that, you will say, is a wish savouring only of selfishness. It is a 
dreadful affliction for you! Thomas, I must say it— a dreadful afflic- 
tion." 

^' The disease, or the ending, do you mean ? " Thomas asked, with a 
smile, 

" Both. But I spoke more particularly of the disease. That in itself 
is a lingering death, and nothing less." 

" A lingering death is the most favoured death — as I regard it : a 
sudden death the most unhappy. See what time is given me to ' set 
my house in order,' " he added, the sober, pleasant smile deepening. 
" I must not fail to do it well, must I ? " 

" And the pain, Thomas ; that will be lingering, too." 

" I must bear it." 

He rose as he spoke, and put his arm within his brother's. George 
seemed to him then the same powerful protector that he, Thomas, must 
have seemed to Sir George in that midnight walk at Broomhead. He 
stood a minute or two, as if gathering strength, and then walked for- 
ward, leaning heavily on George. It was the pain, the excessive agony 
that so unnerved him : a little while, and he would seem in the posses- 
sion of his usual strength again. 

" Ay, George, it will soon be yours. I shall not long keep you out of 
Ashlydyat. I cannot quite tell how you will manage alone at the Bank 
when I am gone," he continued, in a more business tone. ^' I think of 
it a great deal. Sometimes I fancy it might be better if you took a 
staid, sober partner ; one middle aged. A thorough man of business. 
Great confidence has been accorded me, you know, George. I suppose 
people like my steady habits." 

" They like you for your integrity," returned George, the words 
seeming to break from him impulsively. " I shall manage very well, 
I dare say, when the time comes. I suppose I must settle down to 
steadiness also ; to be more as you have been. I can," he continued, 
as if in soHloquy. " I can, and I will." 

" And, George, you will be a good master," continued Thomas. " Be 
a kind, considerate master to all who shall then be dependent on you. 
I have tried to be so : and, now that the end has come, it is, I assure 
you, a pleasant consciousness to possess — to look back upon. I have a 
few, very few, poor pensioners who may have been a little the better 
for me : those I shall take care of, and Janet will sometimes see them. 
But some of the servants lapse to you with Ashlydyat : I speak of thenic 



200 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Make them comfortable. Most of them are already in years : take care 
of them when they shall be too old to work." 

" Oh, ril do that," said George. " I expect Janet " 

George's words died away. They had rounded the ash-trees, and 
were fronting the Dark Plain. White enough looked the plain that 
night ; but dark was the Shadow on it. Yes, it was there ! The dark, 
portentous, terrific Shadow of Ashlydyat ! 

They stood still. Perhaps their hearts stood still. Who can know ? 
A man would rather confess to an unholy deed, than acknowledge his 
belief in a ghostly superstition. 

" How dark it is to-night ! " broke from George. 

In truth, it had never been darker, never more intensely distinct. 
If, as the popular belief went, the evil to overtake the Godolphins was 
foreshadowed to be greater or less, according to the darker or lighter 
hue of the Shadow, then never did such ill fall on the Godolphins, as 
Avas to fall now. 

" It is black, not dark," replied Thomas, in answer to George's re- 
mark. I never saw it so black as it is now. Last night it was 
comparatively light." 

George turned his gaze quickly upwards to the moon, searching in 
the aspect of that luminary a solution to the darker shade of to-night. 

There's no difference ! " he cried aloud. The moon was as bright 
as this, last night, but not brighter. I don't think it could be brighter. 
You say the Shadow was there last night, Thomas ? " 

" Yes. But not so dark as now." 
But, Thomas ! you were ill last night ; you could not see it." 

" I came as far as the turnstile here with Lord Averil. He called at 
Ashlydyat after leaving Lady Godolphin's Folly. I was better then, 
and strolled out of the house with him." 
Did he see the Shadow ? " 

"I don't know. It was there; but not very distinct. He did not 
appear to see it. We were passing quickly, and talking about my 
illness." 

" Did you give Averil any hint of what your illness may be ? " asked 
George hastily. 

Not an indication of it. Janet, Snow, and you, are my only con- 
fidants as yet. Bexley is partially so. Were that Shadow to be seen 
by Prior's Ash, and the fact of my illness transpired, people would say 
that it was a forewarning of my end," he continued, with a grave smile, 
as he and George turned to pursue their road to Ashlydyat. 

They reached the porch in silence. George shook hands with his 
brother. " Don't attempt to come to business to-morrow," he said. 
" I will come up in the evening, and see you." 

" Won't you come in now, George ? " 
Not now. Good night, Thomas. I heartily wish you better." 

George turned and retraced his steps, past the ash-trees, past the 
Dark Plain. Intensely black the Shadow certainly looked : darker 
even than when he had passed it just before — at least so it appeared to 
George's eyes. He halted a moment, quite struck with the sombre hue. 
" Thomas said it appeared light last night," he half muttered : " and 
for hm death cannot be much of an evil. Superstitious Janet, daft 



A REVELATION. 



20 1 



Margery, would both say that the evil affects me : that I am to bring 
it ! " he added, with a smile of mockery at the words. " Angry enough 
it certainly looks !" 

It did look angry. But George vouchsafed it no further attention. 
He had too much on his mind to give heed to shadows, even though it 
were the ominous Shadow of Ashlydyat. George, as he had said to 
Charlotte Pain, was very nearly at his wits' end. One of his minor 
perplexities was, how he should get to London. He had urgent neces- 
sity for proceeding in search of Mr. Verrall, and equally urgent was it 
that the expedition should be kept from Thomas Godolphin. What 
excuse could he invent for his absence? 

Rapidly arranging his plans, he proceeded again to the Bell Inn, 
held a few minutes' confidential conversation with Captain St. Aubyn, 
waking that gentleman out of his first sleep for it — not that he by 
any means enlightened him as to any trouble that might be running 
riot in his brain — and then went home. Maria came forward to 
meet him. 

" How is poor Captain St. Aubyn, George? Very ill?" 

" Very. How did you know anything about it, Maria?" 

" Thomas told me you had been sent for. Thomas came to my sit- 
ting-room before he left, after the rest had gone. You have stayed a 
good while with him." 

" Ay. What should you say if I were to go back and stop the night 
with him?" asked George, half jokingly. 

" Is he so ill as that?" 

"And also to accompany him a stage or two on his journey to- 
morrow morning? He starts at six, and is about as fit to travel as 
an invalid just out of bed after a month's illness." 

"Do you really mean that you are going to do all that, George?" 
she inquired, in surprise. 

George nodded. " I do not fancy Thomas will be here to-morrow, 
Maria. Ask to speak to Isaac when he comes in the morning. Tell 
him that I shall be home some time in the afternoon, but I have gone 
out of town a few miles with a sick friend. He can say so if I am 
particularly inquired for." 

George went to his room. Maria followed him. He was changing 
his coat and waistcoat, and threw an overcoat upon his arm. Then he 
looked at his watch. 

" What is the time ?" asked Maria. 

" Twenty minutes past eleven. Good night, my darling." 

She fondly held his face down to hers while he kissed her, giving him 
— as George had once saucily told her she would — kiss for kiss. 
There was no shame in it now ; only love. " Oh, George, my dearest, 
mind you come back safe and well to me ! " she murmured, tears 
filling her eyes. 

" Don't I always come back safe and well to you, you foohsh child? 
Take care of yourself, Maria." 

Maria's hand rested lingeringly in his. Could she have divined that 
Mr. George's tender adieux sometimes strayed elsewhere! — that his 
confidences were given, but not to her ! George went out, and the hall 
door closed upon him. 



202 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



It was well Maria did not watch him away ! Well for her astonish- 
ment. Instead of going to the Bell Inn, he turned short round to the 
left, and took the by-way which led to the railway station, gaining it 
in time to catch the express train, which passed through Prior's Ash at 
midnight for London, 



CHAPTER VI. 

MR. VERRALL'S CHAMBERS. 

In thoroughly handsome chambers towards the west-end of London, 
fitted up with costly elegance, more in accordance (one would think) 
with a place consecrated to the refinements of life, than to business, 
there sat one morning a dark gentleman, of staid and respectable 
appearance. To look at his clean, smoothly shaven face, his grey hair, 
his gold-rimmed spectacles, his appearance altogether, every item of 
which carried respectability with it, you might have trusted the man 
at a first glance. In point of fact, he was got up to be trusted. A 
fire was pleasant on those spring mornings, and a large and clear one 
flamed in the burnished grate. Miniature statues, and other articles 
possessing, one must suppose, some rare excellence, gave to the room 
a refined look; and the venerable gentleman (venerable in sober 
respectability, you must understand, more than from age, for his years 
were barely fifty) sat enjoying its blaze, and culling choice morsels 
from the Times. The money article, the price of stock, a large in- 
solvency case, and other news especially acceptable to men of business, 
were being eagerly read by him. 

An architect might have taken a model of these chambers, so artis- 
tically were they arranged. A client could pass into any one of the 
three rooms, and not come out by the same door ; he might reach 
them by the wide, handsome staircase, descend by means of a ladder, 
and emerge in a back street. Not absolutely a ladder, but a staircase 
so narrow as almost to deserve the name. It did happen, once in 
a way, that a gentleman might prefer that means of exit, even if he 
did not of entrance. These chambers were, not to keep you longer 
in suspense, the offices of the great bill-discounting firm, Trueworthy 
and Co. 

One peculiar feature in their internal economy was, that no client 
ever got to see Mr. Trueworthy. He was too great a man to stoop 
to business in his own proper person. He was taking his pleasure in 
the East ; or he was on a visit to some foreign court, the especial guest 
of its imperial head ; or sojourning with his bosom friend the Duke of 
Dorsetshire at his shooting-box ; or reposing at his own country seat ; 
or ill in bed with gout. From one or other of these contingencies Mr. 
Trueworthy was invariably invisible. It happened now and then that 
there was a disturbance in these elegant chambers, caused by some ill- 
bred and ill-advised gentleman, who persisted in saying that he had 
been hardly treated — in point of fact, ruined. One or two had, on these 
occasions, broadly asserted their conviction that there was no Mr. 



MR. VERRALUS CHAMBERS. 



203 



Trueworthy at all : but of course their ravings, whether on the score of 
their own wrongs, or on the non-existence of that estimable gentleman, 
whose fashionable movements might have filled a weekly column of the 
Court Circular^ were taken for what they were worth. 

In the years gone by — only a very few years, though — the firm had 
owned another head : at any rate, another name. A young, fair man, 
who had disdained the exclusiveness adopted by his successor, and 
deemed himself not too great a mortal to be seen of men. This 
unfortunate principal had managed his affairs badly. In some way or 
other he came to- grief. Perhaps the blame lay in his youth. Some 
one was so wicked as to prefer against him a charge of swindling ; and 
ill-natured tongues said it would go hard with him — fifteen years at 
least. What they meant by the last phrase, they best knew. Like 
many another charge, it never came to anything. The very hour before 
he would have been captured, he made his escape, and had never since 
been seen or heard of. Some surmised that he was dead, some that he 
was in hiding abroad : only one thing was certain — that into this coun- 
try he could not again enter. 

All that, however, was past and gone. The gentleman, Mr. Brompton, 
sitting at his ease over his newspaper, his legs stretched out to the 
blaze, was the confidential manager and head of the office. Half the 
apphcants did not know but that he was its principal : strangers, at 
first, invariably believed that he was so. A lesser satellite, a clerk, or 
whatever he might be, sat in an outer room, and bowed in the clients, 
his bow showing far more deference to this gentleman than to the 
clients themselves. How could the uninitiated suppose that he was 
anything less than the principal ? 

On this morning there went up the broad staircase a gentleman 
whose remarkably good looks drew the eyes of the passers-by towards 
him, as he got out of the cab which brought him. The clerk took a 
hasty step forward to arrest his progress, for the gentleman was 
crossing the office with a bold step : and all steps might not be admitted 
to that inner room. The gentleman, however, put up his hand, as if 
to say, Don't you know me 1 and went on. The clerk, who at the first 
moment had probably not had time to recognize him, threw open the 
inner door. 

" Mr. George Godolphin, sir." 

Mr. George Godolphin strode on. He was evidently not on familiar 
terms with the gentleman who rose to receive him, for he did not shake 
hands with him. His tone and manner were courteous. 

"Is Mr. Verrall here?" 

" He is not here, Mr. Godolphin. I am not sure that he will be here 
to-day." 

" I must see him," said George, firmly. " I have followed him to 
town to see him. You know that he came up yesterday? " 
" Yes. I met him last night." 

" I should suppose, as he was sent for unexpectedly — which I hear 
was the case — that he was sent for on business ; and therefore that he 
would be here to-day," pursued George. 

" I am not sure of it. He left it an open question." 

George looked uncommonly perplexed. " I must see him, and I must 



204 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



be back at Prior's Ash during business hours to-day. I must catch 
the eleven down-train if possible." 

"Can I do for you as well as Mr. Verrall?" asked Mr. Brompton, 
after a pause. 

No, you can't. Verrall I must see. It is very strange that you 
don't know whether he is to be here or not." 

"It happens to-day that I do not know. Mr. Verrall left it last 
night, I say, an open question." 

"It is the loss of time that I am thinking of," returned George. 
" You see if I go down now to his residence, he may have left it to 
come up here ; and we should just miss each other." 

" Very true," asserted Brompton. 

George stood for a moment in thought, and then turned on his 
heel, and departed. "Do you know whether Mr. Verrall will be up 
this morning ? " he asked of the clerk, as he passed through the outer 
room. 

The clerk shook his head. " I am unable to say, sir." 
George went down to the cab, and entered it. "Where to, sir.^'' 
asked the driver, as he closed the door. 
" The South- Western Railway." 

As the echo of George's footsteps died away on the stairs, Mr. 
Brompton, first slipping the bolt of the door which led into the clerk's 
room, opened the door of another room. A double door, thoroughly 
well padded, deadened all sound between the apartments. It was 
a larger and more luxurious room still. Two gentlemen were seated 
in it by a similarly bright fire : though, to look at the face of the one — 
a young man, whose handkerchief, as it lay carelessly on the table 
beside him, bore a viscount's coronet — no one would have thought any 
fire was needed. His face was glowing, and he was talking in angry 
excitement, but with a tone and manner somewhat subdued, as if he 
were in the presence of a master, and dared not put forth his metal. 
In short, he looked something like a caged lion. Opposite to him, 
listening with cold, imperturbable courtesy, his face utterly impassive, 
as it ever was, his eyes calm, his yellow hair in perfect order, his 
moustache trimmed, his elbows resting on the arms of his chair, and 
the tips of his fingers meeting, on one of which fingers shone a monster 
diamond of the purest water, was Mr. Verrall. Early as the hour was, 
glasses and champagne stood on the table. 

Mr. Brompton telegraphed a sign to Mr. Verrall, and he came out, 
leaving the viscount to waste his anger upon air. The viscount might 
rely on one thing : that it Avas just as good to bestow it upon air as 
upon Mr. Verrall, for all the impression it would make on the latter. 

" Godolphin has been here," said Mr. Brompton, keeping the doors 
carefully closed. 

"He has followed me to town, then ! I thought he might do so. It 
is of no use my seeing him. If he won't go deeper into the mire, why, 
the explosion must come." 

" He must go deeper into it," remarked Mr. Brompton. 

" He holds out against it, and words seem wasted on him. Where's 
he gone now? " 

" Down to your house, 1 expect. He says he must be back horne 



MR. VERRALL'S CHAMBERS. 



to-day, but must see you first. I thought you would not cate to meet 
him, so I said I didn't know whether you'd be here or not." 

Mr. Verrall mused. "Yes, I'll see him. I can't deal with him 
altogether as I do with others. And he has been a lucky gard to us." 

Mr. Verrall went back to his viscount, who by that time^was striding 
explosively up and down the room. Mr. Brompton sat down to his 
paper again, and his interesting news of the Insolvency Court. 

In one of the most charming villas on the banks of the Thames, a 
villa which literally lacked nothing that money could buy, sat Mrs. 
Verrall at a late breakfast, on that same morning. She jumped up 
with a little scream at the sight of George Godolphin crossing the 
velvet lawn. 

" What bad news have you come to tell me? Is Charlotte killed? 
Or is Lady Godolphin's Folly on fire? " 

" Charlotte was well when I left her, and the Folly standing," replied 
George, throwing care momentarily to the winds, as he was sure to do 
in the presence of a pretty woman. 

" She will be killed, you know, some day with those horses of hers," 
rejoined Mrs. Verrall. " What have you come for, then, at this un- 
expected hour? When Verrall arrived last night, he said you were 
giving a dinner at Prior's Ash." 

" I want to see Verrall. Is he up yet? " 

" Up ! He was up and away ages before I awoke. He went up 
early to the office." 

George paused. " I have been to the office, and Mr. Brompton said 
he did not know whether he would be there to-day at all." 

" Oh, well, / don't know," returned Mrs. Verrall, believing she might 
have made an inconvenient admission. " When he goes up to town, I 
assume he goes to the office ; but he may be bound to the wilds of 
Siberia for anything I can tell." 

''When do you expect him home?" asked George. 

" I did not ask him," carelessly replied Mrs. Verrall. " It may 
be to-day, or it may be next month. What will you take for break- 
fast?" 

" I will not take anything," returned George, holding out his hand to 
depart. 

But you are not going again in this hasty manner ! What sort of 
a visit do you call this? " 

" A hasty one," replied George. " I must be at Prior's Ash this 
afternoon. Any message to Charlotte ? " 

" Why — yes — I have," said Mrs. Verrall, with some emphasis. " I 
was about to despatch a small parcel this very next hour to Charlotte, 
by post. But — when shall you see her ? To-night ? " 

" I can see her to-night if you wish it." 
It would oblige me much. The truth is, it is something I ought 
to have sent yesterday, and I forgot it. Be sure and let her have it 
to-night." 

Mrs. Verrall rang, and a small packet, no larger than a bulky letter, 
was brought in. George took it, and was soon being whirled back to 
London. 

He stepped into a cab at the Waterloo Station, teUing the man he 



2o6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



should have double pay if he drove at double speed : and it conveyed 
him to Mr. Verrall's chambers. 

George went straight to Mr. Brompton's room, as before. That 
gentleman had finished his Ti?nes, and was buried deep in a pile of 
letters. "Is Mr. Verrall in now?" asked George. 

" He is here now, Mr. Godolphin. He was here two minutes after 
you departed : it's a wonder you did not meet." 

George knew the way to Mr. Verrall's room, and was allowed to 
enter. Mr. Verrall, alone then, turned round with a cordial grasp. 

" Holloa ! " said he. " We somehow missed this morning. How 
are you? " 

" I say, Verrall, how came you to play me such a trick as to go off 
in that clandestine manner yesterday ? " remonstrated George. " You 
know the uncertainty I was in : that if I did not get what I hoped for, 
I should be on my beam ends ? " 

" My dear fellow, I supposed you had got it. Hearing nothing of 
you all day, I concluded it had come by the morning's post." 

" It had not come then," returned George, crustily. In spite of his 
bhnd trust in the unbleached good faith of Mr. Verrall, there were 
moments when a thought would cross him as to whether that gentle- 
man had been playing a double game. This was one of them. 

I had a hasty summons, and was obliged to come away without 
delay," explained Mr. Verrall. " I sent you a message." 

" Which I never received," retorted George. " But the message is 
not the question. See here ! A pretty letter, this, for a man to read. 
It came by the afternoon post." 

Mr. Verrall took the letter, and digested the contents deliberately ; 
in all probability he had known their substance before. " What do 
you think of it?" demanded George. 

" It^s unfortunate," said Mr. Verrall. 

" It's ruin," returned George. 

" Unless averted. But it must be averted." 

''How?" 

" There is one way, you know," said Mr. Verrall, after a pause. '' I 
have pointed it out to you already." 

" And I wish your tongue had been blistered, Verrall, before you 
ever had pointed it out to me ! " foamed George. " There ! " 

Mr. Verrall raised his impassive eyebrows. " You must be 
aware — — " 

" Man !" interrupted George, his voice hoarse with emotion, as he 
grasped Mr. Verrall's shoulder : do you know that the temptation, 
since you suggested it, is ever standing out before me — an ignis fatuus, 
beckoning me on to it ! Though I know that it would prove nothing 
but a curse to engulf me." 

" Here, George, take this," said Mr. Verrall, pouring out a large 
tumbler of sparkling wine, and forcing it upon him. " The worst of you 
is, that you get so excited over things ! and then you are sure to look 
at them in a wrong light. Just hear me for a moment. The pressure 
is all at this present moment, is it not? If you can hft it, you will 
recover yourself fast enough. Has it ever struck you," Mr. Verrall 
added, somewhat abruptly, " that your brother is fading?" 



MR. VERRALL'S CHAMBERS. 



207 



Remembering the scene with his brother the previous night, George 
looked very conscious. He simply nodded an answer. 

" With Ashlydyat yours, you would recover yourself almost imme- 
diately. . There would positively be no risk." 

'''No risk/^^ repeated George, with emphasis. 

" I cannot see that there would be any. Everything's a risk, if 
you come to that. We are in risk of earthquakes, of a national bank- 
ruptcy, of various other calamities : but the risk that would attend the 
step I suggested to you is really so shght as not to be called a risk. It 
never can be known : the chances are a hundred thousand to one." 

" But there remains the one," persisted George. 

" To let an expose come would be an act of madness, at the worst 
look out : but it is madness and double madness when you may so soon 
succeed to Ashlydyat." 

" Oblige me by not counting upon that, Verrall," said George. " I 
hope, ill as my brother appears to be, that he may live yet." 

" I don't wish to count upon it," returned Mr. Verrall. " It is for you 
to count upon it, not me. Were I in your place, I should not blind 
my eyes to the palpable fact. Look here : your object is to get out of 
this mess?" 

You know it is," said George. 

Very well. I see but one way for you to do it. The money must 
be raised, and how is that to be done 1 Why, by the means I suggest. 
It will never be known. A little time, and things can be worked round 
again." 

" I have been hoping to work things round this long while," said 
George. " And they grow worse instead of better." 

" Therefore I say that you should not close your eyes to the prospect 
of Ashlydyat. Sit down. Be yourself again, and let us talk things 
over quietly." 

" You see, Verrall, the risk falls wholly upon me." 

"And, upon whom the benefit, for which the risk will be incurred ?" 
pointedly returned Mr. Verrall. 

" It seems to me that I don't get the lion's share of these benefits," 
was George's remark. 

" Sit down, I say. Can't you be still ? Here, take some more wine. 
There : now let us talk it over." 

And talk it over they did, as may be inferred. For it was a full hour 
afterwards when George came out. He leaped into the cab, which had 
waited, telling the man that he must drive as if he were going through 
fire and water. The man did so : and George arrived at the Padding- 
ton station just in time to lose his train. 



2o8 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



CHAPTER VII. 

BEYOND RECALL. 

The clerks were at a stand-still in the banking-house of Godolphin, 
Crosse, and Godolphin. A certain iron safe had to be opened, and the 
key was not to be found. There were duplicate keys to it ; one of them 
was kept by Mr. Godolphin, the other by Mr. George. Mr. Hurde, the 
cashier, appealed to Isaac Hastings. 

" Do you think it has not been left with Mrs. George Godolphin ? " 

^' I'll ask her," replied Isaac, getting off his stool. " I don't think it 
has : or she would have given it to me when she informed me of Mr. 
George Godolphin's absence." 

He went into the dining-room : that pleasant room, which it was 
almost a shame to designate by the name. Maria was listlessly stand- 
ing against the window-frame, plucking mechanically the fading 
blossoms of a geranium. She turned her head at the opening of the 
door, and saw her brother. 

" Isaac, what time does the first train come in ? " 

" From what place ? " inquired Isaac. 

" Oh — from the Portsmouth direction. It was Portsmouth that 
Captain St. Aubyn was to embark from, was it not ? " 

" I don't know anything about it," replied Isaac. " Neither can I 
tell at what hours trains arrive from that direction. Maria, has Mn 
George Godolphin left the key of the book-safe with you ? " 

" No," was Maria's answer. " I suppose he must have forgotten to 
do so. He has left it with me when he has gone away unexpectedly 
before, after banking-hours.'* 

^ Isaac returned to the rest of the clerks. The key was wanted 
badly, and it was decided that he should go up to Ashlydyat for Mr. 
Godolphin's. 

He took the nearest road to it. Down Crosse Street, and through 
the Ash-tree Walk. It was a place, as you have heard, especially 
shunned at night : it was not much frequented by day. Therefore, it 
was no surprise to Isaac Hastings that he did not, all through it, meet 
a single thing, either man or ghost. At the very end, however, on 
that same broken bench where Thomas Godolphin and his bodily 
agony had come to an anchor the previous night, sat Charlotte Pain. 

She was in deep thought : deep perplexity ; there was no mistaking 
that her countenance betrayed both : some might have fancied in deep 
pain, either bodily or mental. Pale she was not. Charlotte's com- 
plexion was made up too fashionably for either red or white, born of 
emotion, to affect it, unless it might be emotion of a most extraordinary 
nature. Hands clenched, brow knit, lips drawn from her teeth, eyes 
staring on vacancy — Isaac Hastings could not avoid reading the signs, 
and he read them with surprise. 
Good morning, Mrs. Pain ! " 



BEYOND RECALL. 



209 



Charlotte started from the seat with a half scream. " What's the use 
of startling one like that ! " she fiercely exclaimed. 

"I did not startle you intentionally," replied Isaac. "You might 
have heard my footsteps had you not been so preoccupied. Did you 
think it was the ghost arriving ? " he added, jestingly. 

" Of course I did," returned Charlotte, laughing, as she made an 
effort, and a successful one, to recover herself. "What do you do 
here this morning? Did you come to look after the ghost, or after 
me?" 

"After neither," replied Isaac, with more truth than gallantry. " Mr. 
George Godolphin has sent me up here." 

Now, in saying this, what Isaac meant to express was nothing more 
than that his coming up was caused by George Godolphin. Alluding 
of course to George's forgetfulness in carrying off the key. Charlotte, 
however, took the words hterally, and her eyes opened. 

" Did George Godolphin not go last night ? " 

" Yes, he went. He forgot " 

" Then what can have brought him back so soon ? " was her vehe- 
ment interruption, not allowing Isaac time to conclude. "There's no 
day train in from London yet." 

" Is there not ? " was Isaac's rejoinder, looking keenly at her. 

" Why, of course there's not : as you know, or ought to know. Be- 
sides, he could not get through the business he has gone upon and 
be back yet, unless he came by telegraph. He intended to leave by 
the eleven o'clock train from Paddington." 

She spoke rapidly, thoughtlessly, in her surprise. Her inward 
thought was, that to have gone to London, and returned again since 
the hour at which she parted from him the previous night, one way, at 
least, must have been accomphshed on the telegraph wires. Had she 
taken a moment for reflection, she would not have so spoken. How- 
ever famihar she might be with the affairs of Mr. George Godolphin, 
so much the more reason was there for her shunning open allusion to 
them. 

"Who told you Mr. George Godolphin had gone to London, Mrs. 
Pain?" asked Isaac, after a pause. 

"Do you think I did not know it? Better than you, Mr. Isaac, 
clever and wise as you deem yourself." 

" I pretend to be neither one nor the other with regard to the 
movements of Mr. George Godolphin," was the reply of Isaac. "It is 
not my place to be so. I heard he had only gone a stage or two 
towards Portsmouth with a sick friend. Of course if you know he has 
gone to London, that is a different matter. I can't stay now, Mrs. 
Pain : I have a message for Mr. Godolphin." 

"Then he is not back again?" cried Charlotte, as Isaac was going 
through the turnstile. 

" Not yet." 

Charlotte looked after him as he went out of sight, and bit her hps. 
A doubt was flashing over her — called up by Isaac's last observation — 
as to whether she had done right to allude to London. When George 
had been with her, discussing it, he had wondered what excuse he 
should invent for taking the journey, and Charlotte never supposed 
The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 14- 



210 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYATo 



but that it would be known. The bright idea of starting on a bene- 
volent excursion towards Portsmouth, had been an after-thought of Mr. 
George's as he journeyed home. 

" If I have done mischief," Charlotte was beginning slowly to mur- 
mur. But she threw back her head defiantly. Oh, nonsense about 
mischief! What does it matter ? George can battle it out." 

Thomas Godolphin was at breakfast in his own room, his face, pale 
and worn, bearing traces of suffering. Isaac Hastings was admitted, 
and explained the cause of his appearance. Thomas received the news 
of George's absence with considerable surprise. 

"He left me late last night — m the night, I may say — to return 
home. He said nothing then of his intention to be absent. Where do 
you say he has gone to ? " 

" Maria delivered a message to me, sir, from him, to the effect that 
he had accompanied a sick friend, Captain St. Aubyn, a few miles on 
the Portsmouth line," replied Isaac. " But Mrs. Pain, whom I have 
just met, says it is to London that he has gone : she says she knows 
it." 

Thomas Godolphin made no further comment. It may not have 
pleased him to remark upon any information touching his brother fur- 
nished by Mrs. Charlotte Pain. He handed the key to Isaac, and said 
he should speedily follow him to the Bank. It had not been Thomas 
Godolphin's intention to go to the Bank that day, but hearing of 
George's absence caused him to proceed thither. He ordered his car- 
riage, and got there almost as soon as Isaac, bearing an invitation to 
Maria from Janet. 

A quarter of an hour given to business in the manager's room, 
George's, and then Thomas Godolphin went to Maria. She was seated 
now near the window, in her pretty morning dress, engaged in some 
sort of fancy work. In her gentle face, her soft sweet eyes, Thomas 
would sometimes fancy he read a resemblance to his lost Ethel. 
Thomas greatly loved and esteemed Maria. 

She rose to receive him, holding out her hand that he might take it 
as she quietly but earnestly made inquiries about his state of health. 
Not so well as he was yesterday, Thomas answered. He supposed 
George had given her the account of their meeting the previous night, 
under the ash-trees, and of his, Thomas's illness. 

Maria had not heard it. " How could George have been near the ash- 
trees last night ? " she, wondering, inquired. " Do you mean /asf night, 
Thomas ?" 

Yes, last night, after I left you. ' I was taken ill in going home " 

Miss Meta, who had been fluttering about the terrace, fluttered in to 
see who might be talking to her mamma, and interrupted the conclu- 
sion of the sentence. " Uncle Thomas ! Uncle Thomas ! " cried she, 
joyously. They were great friends. 

Her entrance diverted the channel of their conversation. Thomas 
took the child on his knee, fondly stroking her golden curls. Thomas 
remembered to have stroked just such golden curls on the head of his 
brother George, when he, George, was a little fellow of M eta's age. 

" Janet bade me ask if you would go to Ashlydyat for the day, Maria," 
said he. She " 



BEYOND RECALL. 



211 



" Meta go too," put in the little quick tongue. " Meta go too, Uncle 
Thomas." 

" Will Meta be good ? — and not run away from Aunt Janet, and lose 
herself in the passages, as she did last time ? " said Thomas, with a 
smile. 

" Meta very good," was the answer, given with an oracular nod of 
promise. Thomas turned to Maria. 

^' Where is it that George has gone ? " he asked. " With St. Aubyn ? 
or to London ? " 

" Not to London," replied Maria. He has gone with Captain St. 
Aubyn. What made you think of London ? " 

" Isaac said Mrs. Pain thought he had gone to London," rephed 
Thomas. " It was some mistake, I suppose. But I wonder he should 
go out to-day for anything less urgent than necessity. The Bank wants 
him." 

Maria was soon to be convinced that she need not have spoken so 
surely about George's having gone with Captain St. Aubyn. When 
she and Meta, with Margery — who would have thought herself griev- 
ously wronged had she not been one of the party to Ashlydyat — were 
starting, Thomas came out of the Bank parlour and accompanied 
them to the door. While standing there, the porter of the Bell Inn 
happened to pass, and Maria stopped him to inquire whether Captain 
St. Aubyn was better when he left. 

" He was not at all well, ma'am," was the man's answer : hardly fit 
to travel. He had been in a sort of fever all the night." 

" And my master, I suppose, must take and sit up with him ! " put in 
Margery, without ceremony, in a resentful tone. 

" No, he didn't," said the man, looking at Margery, as if he did not 
understand her. " It was my turn to be up last night, and I was in 
and out of his room four or five times : but nobody stayed with him." 

"But Mr. George Godolphin went with Captain St. Aubyn this 
morning ? " said Thomas Godolphin to the man. 

" Went where, sir ? " 

" Started with him. On his journey." 

" No, sir; not that I know of. I did not see him at the station." 

Maria thought the man must be stupid. " Mr. George Godolphin 
returned to the Bell between eleven and twelve last night," she ex- 
plained. "And he intended to accompany Captain St. Aubyn this 
morning on his journey." 

" Mr. George was at the Bell for a few minutes just after eleven, 
ma'am. It was me that let him out. He did not come back again. 
And I don't think he was at the train this morning. I am sure he 
was not with Captain St. Aubyn, for I never left the captain till the 
train started." 

Nothing further was said to the porter. He touched his hat, and 
went his way. Maria's face wore an air of bewilderment. Thomas 
smiled at her. 

" I think it is you who must be mistaken, Maria," said he. Depend 
upon it, Mrs. Pain is right : he has gone to London." 

" But why should he go to London without telling me ? " debated 
Maria. " Why say he was going with Captain St. Aubyn ? " 



212 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Thomas could offer no opinion upon the subject. Miss Meta began 
to stamp her pretty shoes, and to drag her mamma by the hand. She 
was impatient to depart. 

They chose the way by the lonely Ash-tree Walk. It was pleasant on 
a sunny day : sunshine scares away ghosts : and it was also the nearest. 
As they were turning into it, they met Charlotte Pain. Maria, simple- 
hearted and straightforward, never casting a suspicion to — to any- 
thing undesirable — spoke at once of the uncertainty she was in, as to 
her husband. 

Why do you think he has gone to London ? " she asked. 
I know he has," replied Charlotte. "He told me he was going 
there." 

But he told me he was only going with Captain St. Aubyn," 
returned Maria, a doubtful sound in her voice. 

" Oh, my dear, gentlemen do not find it always convenient to keep 
their wives au courant of their little affairs." 

Had it been salvation to her, Charlotte could not have helped launch- 
ing that shaft at Maria Godolphin. No ; not even regard for George's 
secrets stopped her. She had done the mischief by speaking to Isaac, 
and this opportunity was too glorious to be missed, so she braved it 
out. Had Charlotte dared — for her own sake — she could have sent 
forth an unlimited number of poisoned arrows daily at George Godol- 
phin's wife : and she would have relished the sport amazingly. She 
sailed off : a curiously conspicuous smile of triumph in her eyes as 
they were bent on Maria, her parting movement being a graciously 
condescending nod to the child. 

Maria was recalled to her senses by Margery. The woman was 
gazing after Charlotte with a dark, strange look : a look that Maria 
understood as little as she understood Charlotte's triumphant one. 
Margery caught the eye of her mistress upon her, and smoothed her 
face with a short cough. 

" I'm just taking the pattern of her jacket, ma'am. It matches so 
bravely with the hat I wonder what the world will come to next.-' 
The men will .take to women's clothes, I suppose, now the women 
have taken to men's." 

Mr. George — as you may remember — missed his train. And Mr. 
George debated whether he should order a special. Two reasons with- 
held him. One was, that his arriving at Prior's Ash by a special train 
might excite comment ; the other, that a special train was expensive ; 
and of late Mr. George Godolphin had not had any too much ready 
money to spare. He waited for the next ordinary train, and that 
deposited him at Prior's Ash at seven o'clock. 

He proceeded home at once. The Bank was closed for the evening. 
Pierce admitted his master, who went into the dining-room. No sign 
of dinner ; no signs of occupation. 

" My mistress is at Ashlydyat, sir. She went up this morning with 
Miss Meta and Margery. You would hke dinner, sir, would you not ?" 

I don't much care for it," responded George. " Anything will do. 
Has Mr. Godolphin been at the Bank to-day?" 

"Yes, sir. He has been here all day, I think?" 

George went into the Bank parlour, then to other of the business 



BEYOND RECALL. 



213 



rooms. He was looking about for letters : he was looking at books : 
altogether he seemed to be busy. Presently he came out and called 
Pierce. 
" I want a light." 

Pierce brought it. " I shall be engaged here for half an hour," said 
his master. " Should any one call, I cannot be disturbed : under any 
pretence, you understand." 

" Very well, sir," replied Pierce, as he withdrew. And George locked 
the intervening door between the house and the Bank, and took out 
the key. 

He turned into a passage and went diving down a few stairs, the 
light in his hand ; selected one of several keys which he had brought 
with him, and opened the door of a dry-vaulted room. It was the 
strong-room of the Bank, secure and fireproof. 

" Safe number three, on right," he read, consulting a bit of paper on 
which he had copied down the words in pencil upstairs. " Number 
three? Then it must be this one." 

Taking another of the keys, he put it into the lock. Turned it, and 
turned it, and — could not open the lock. George snatched it out, and 
read the label. " Key of safe number two." 

" What an idiot I am ! I have brought the wrong key ! " 

He went up again, grumbhng at his stupidity, opened the cupboard 
where the keys were kept, and looked for the right one. Number three 
was the one he wanted. And number three was not there. 

George stood transfixed. He had custody of the keys. No other 
person had the power of approaching the place they were guarded in : 
except his brother. Had the Bank itself disappeared, George Godolphin 
could not have been much more astonished than at the disappearance 
of this key. Until this moment, this discovery of its absence, he would 
have been ready to swear that there it was, before all the judges in the 
land. 

He tossed the keys here; he tossed them there; little heeding how 
he misplaced them. George became convinced that the Fates were 
dead against him, in spiriting away, just because he wanted it, this 
particular key. That no one could have touched it except Thomas, he 
knew : and why he should have done so, George could not imagine. 
He could not imagine where it was, or could be, at the present moment. 
Had Thomas required it to visit the safe, he was far too exact, too 
methodical, not to return it to its place again. 

A quarter of an hour given to hunting, to thinking — and the thinking 
was not entirely agreeable thinking — and George gave it up in despair. 

" I must wait until to-morrow," was his conclusion. " If Thomas 
has carried it away with him, through forgetfulness, he will find it out 
and replace it then." 

He was closing the cupboard door, when something arrested it on 
its lower shelf, so that it would not close. Bringing the light inside 
he found — the missing key. George himself must have dropped it 
there on first opening the cupboard. With a suppressed shout of 
delight he snatched it up. A shout of dehght! Better that George 
Godolphin had broken into a wail of lamentation ! Another moment, 
and he was going down the stairs to the strong-room, key in hand. 



214 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Safe number three, on the right, was unlocked without trouble now. 
In that safe there were some tin boxes, on one of which was inscribed 

Lord Averil." Selecting another and a smaller key from those he 
held, George opened this. 

It was full of papers. George looked them rapidly over with the 
quick eye of one accustomed to the work, and drew forth one of them. 
Rather a bulky parcel, some writing upon it. This he thrust into 
his pocket, and began putting the rest in order. Had a mirror been 
held before him at that moment, it would have reflected a face utterly 
colourless. He returned to the office. 

Enclosing the packet in a stout envelope, which he directed, he went 
out, and dropped it into the post-office at the opposite corner of Crosse 
Street. Very soon he was on his way to Lady Godolphin's Folly, 
bearing with him the small parcel sent by Mrs. Verrall — a sufficient 
excuse for calling there, had George required an excuse. Which he 
did not. 

It was a light night ; as it had been the previous night, though the 
moon was not yet very high. He gained the turnstile at the end of the 
Ash-tree Walk — where he had been startled by the apparition of Thomas, 
and where Isaac Hastings had seen Charlotte Pain that morning — and 
turned into the open way to the right. A few paces more, and he 
struck into the narrow pathway which would lead him through the 
grove of trees, leaving Ashlydyat and its approaches to the left. 

Did George Godolphin love the darkness, that he should choose that 
v/ay? Last night and again to-night he had preferred it. It was 
most unusual for any one to approach the Folly by that obscure path. 
A few paces round, and he would have skirted the thicket, would have 
gone on to the Folly in the bright, open moonlight. Possibly George 
scarcely noticed that he chose it : full of thought, was he, just then. 

He went along with his head down. What were his reflections? 
Was he wishing that he could undo the deeds of the last hour — replace 
in that tin case what he had taken from it? Was he wishing that he 
could undo the deeds of the last few years — be again a man without a 
cloud on his brow, a heavier cloud on his heart? It was too late: 
he could recall neither the one nor the other.' The deed was already 
on its way to London ; the years had rolled into the awful Past, with 
its doings, bad and good, recorded on high. 

What was that? George lifted his head and his ears. A murmur 
of suppressed voices, angry voices, too, sounded near him, in one of 
which George thought he recognized the tones of Charlotte Pain. He 
went through to an intersecting path, so narrow that one person 
could with difficulty walk down it, just as a scream rang out on the 
night air. 

Panting, scared, breathless, her face distorted with fear or passion, as 
much as George could see of it in the shaded light, her gauze dress torn 
by every tree with which it came in contact, flying down the narrow 
pathway, came Charlotte Pain. And — unless George Godolphin was 
strangely mistaken — some one else was flying in equal terror in the 
opposite direction, as if they had just parted. 

" Charlotte ! What is it? Who has alarmed you? " 

In the moment's first impulse he caught hold of her to protect her ; 



BEYOND RECALL. 



215 



in the second, he loosed his hold, and made after the other fugitive. 
The impression upon George's mind was, that some one, perhaps a 
stranger, had met Charlotte, and frightened her with rude words. 

But Charlotte was as swift as he. She flung her hands around 
George, and held him there. Strong hands they always were : doubly 
strong in that moment of agitation. George could not unclasp them : 
unless he had used violence. 

" Stay where you are ! Stay where you are, for the love of Heaven ! " 
she gasped. " You must not go." 

" What is all this? What is the matter? " he asked in surprise. 

She made no other answer. She clung to him with all her weight 
of strength, her arms and hands straining with the effort, reiterating 
wildly, " You must not go ! you must not go ! " 

" Nay, I don't care to go," replied George : " it was for your sake I 
w^as following. Be calm, Charlotte : there's no necessity for this 
agitation." 

She went on, down the narrow pathway, drawing him with her. The 
broader path gained — though that also was but a narrow one — she put 
her arm within his, and turned towards the house. George could see 
her white frightened face better now, and all the tricks and cosmetics 
invented could not hide its ghasthness ; he felt her heaving pulses ; he 
heard her beating heart. 

Bending down to her, he spoke with a soothing whisper. " Tell me 
what it was that terrified you." 

She would not answer. She only pressed his arm with a tighter 
pressure, lest he might break from her again in pursuit ; she hurried 
onwards with a quicker step. Skirting round the trees, which before 
the house made a half circle, Charlotte came to the end, and then 
darted rapidly across the lawn to the terrace and into the house by one 
of the windows. He followed her. 

Her first movement was to close the shutters and bar them: her 
next to sit down on the nearest chair. Ill as she looked, George could 
scarcely forbear a smile at her gauze dress : the bottom of its skirt was 
in shreds. 

" Will you let me get you something, Charlotte? Or ring for it? " 

" I don't want anything," she answered. " I shall be all right 
directly. How could you frighten me so? " 

/ frighten you ! " returned George. "It was not I who frightened 
you." 

" Indeed it was. You and no one else. Did you not hear me 
scream? " 
" I did." 

" It was at you, rustling through the trees," persisted Charlotte. 
" I had gone out to see if the air would relieve this horrid headache, 
which has been upon me since last night and won't go away. I 
strolled into the thicket, thinking all sorts of lonely things, never sus- 
pecting that you or any one else could be near me. I wonder I did not 
faint, as well as scream." 

" Charlotte, what nonsense ! You were whispering angrily with 
some one ; some one who escaped in the opposite direction. Who 
was it?" 



2i6 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I saw no one ; I heard no one. Neither was I whispering." 

He looked at her intently. That she was telling an untruth he be- 
lieved, for he felt positive that some second person had been there. 
" Why did you stop me, then, when I would have gone in pursuit ? " 

" It was your fault for attempting to leave me," was Charlotte's 
answer. I would not have remained alone for a house full of gold." 

I suppose it is some secret. I think, whatever it may be, Charlotte, 
you might trust He spoke significantly, a stress on the last word. 

Charlotte rose from her seat. 

" So I would," she said, " were there anything to confide. Just look 
at me ! My dress is ruined." 

" You should take it up if you go amidst clumsy trees, whose rough 
trunks nearly meet." 

I had it up — until you came," returned Charlotte, jumping upon 
a chair that she might survey it in one of the side glasses. You 
startled me so that I dropped it. I might have it joined, and a lace 
flounce put upon it," she mused. " It cost a great deal of money, did 
this dress, I can tell you, Mr. George." 

She jumped off the chair again, and George produced the packet 
confided to him by Mrs. Verrall. 

" I promised her that you should have it to-night," he said. " Hence 
my unfortunate appearance here, which it seems has so startled 
you." 

" Oh, that's over now. When did you get back again ? " 
" By the seven o'clock train. I saw Verrall." 
"Well?" 

" It's not well. It's ill. Do you know what I begin to suspect at 
times? — That Verrall and every one else is playing me false. I am 
sick of the world." 

" No, he is not, George. If I thought he were, I'd tell you so. I 
would, on my sacred word of honour. It is not hkely that he is. 
When we are in a bilious mood, everything wears to us a jaundiced 
tinge. You are in one to-night." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE TRADITION OF THE DARK PLAIN. 

It is the province of little demoiselles to be naughty : it is their delight 
to make promises and then break them, all false and fearless — as they 
may do over other affairs in later life. Miss Meta Godolphin was no 
exception to the rule. She had gravely promised her uncle Thomas to 
be a good girl, and not run away to be lost in unfrequented passages ; 
yet no sooner had the young lady arrived at Ashlydyat that morning, 
and been released of her out-door things by Margery, than with a 
joyously defiant laugh that would have rejoiced the heart of Charlotte 
Pain, she flew off to that forbidden spot — the unused passages. Had 
the little lady's motive been laid bare, it might have been found to 



THE TRADITION OF THE DARK PLAIN. 



217 



consist simply in the enjoyment of a thing forbidden. Truth to say, 
Miss Meta was very prone to be disobedient to all persons, excepting one. 
That one was her mother. Maria had never spoken a sharp word to 
the child in her life, or used a sharp tone : but she had contrived to 
train the little one to obey, as well as to love. George, Margery, Mrs. 
Hastings, Miss Meta would openly disobey, and laugh in their faces 
while she did it : her mother, never. Meta remembered a scolding 
she received on the last visit she had paid to Ashlydyat, touching the 
remote passages — she had never found them out until then — and 
apparently the reminiscence of the scolding was so agreeable that 
she was longing to have it repeated. 

" Now," said Margery, as she concluded the young lady's toilette, 
" you'll not go up to those old rooms and passages to-day, mind, Miss 
Meta!" 

For answer. Miss Meta shook out her golden curls, laughed 
triumphantly, and started off to the passages then and there. Maria 
had never said to her, " You must not go near those passages ; " and 
the commands of the rest of the world went for nothing. Margery 
remained in blissful ignorance of the disobedience. She supposed the 
child had run to her mother and the Miss Godolphins. The objection 
to Meta's being in the passages alone had no mysterious element in it. 
It proceeded solely from a regard to her personal safety. The staircase 
leading to the turret was unprotected ; the loopholes in the turret were 
open, and a fall from either might cost the young lady her life. These 
places, the unfrequented passages at the back of the second storey, and 
the staircase leading to the square turret above them, were shut in by 
a door, which separated them from the inhabited part of the house. 
This door Miss Meta had learned to open : and away she went, as fancy 
led her. 

Maria was in Miss Godolphin's room, talking to that lady and to 
Bessy, when a sound overhead caused them to pause. 

" Where's Meta ? " cried Janet, hastening from the room. " She can- 
not have gone upstairs again ! Margery ! Where's the child ? " 

Margery at that moment happened to be putting the finishing 
touches to her own toilette. She came flying without her cap out of 
one of the many narrow passages and windings which intersected each 
other on that floor. " The child went off to you, ma'am, as soon as I 
had put on her pinafore." 

" Then, Margery, she has gone up into the turret. She never came 
to us." 

Up to the turret hastened Janet; up to the turret followed Margery. 
Bessy and Maria traversed the passage leading to the turret-stairs, 
and stood there, looking upwards. Maria, had she been alone, could 
not have told which of the passages would lead her to the turret-stairs ; 
and she could not understand why so much commotion need be made, 
although Meta had run up there. Strange as it may seem, Maria 
Godolphin, though so many years George's wife, and the presumptive 
mistress of Ashlydyat, had never passed beyond that separating door. 
Miss Godolphin had never offered to take her to the unused rooms and 
the turret ; and Maria was of too sensitively refined a nature to ask it 
of her own accord. 



2l8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Janet appeared, leading the rebel; Margery, behind, was scolding 
volubly. " Now," said Janet, when they reached the foot, tell me, 
Meta, how it was that you could behave so disobediently, and go where 
you had been expressly told not to go ? " 

Meta shook back her golden curls with a laugh, sprang to Maria, 
and took refuge in her skirts. " Mamma did not tell me not to go," 
said she. 

Janet looked at Maria : almost as if she would say, Can it be true 
that you have not done so ? 

" It is true," said Maria, answering the look. I heard something 
about her running into the turret the last time she was here : I did not 
know it was of any consequence." 

" She might fall through the loopholes," replied Janet. " Nothing 
could save her from being dashed to pieces." 

Maria caught the child to her with an involuntary movement. 
" Meta, darling, do you hear ? You must never go again." 

Meta looked up fondly, serious now. Maria bent her face down on 
the little upturned one. 

Never again, darling; do not forget," she murmured. Does Meta 
know that if harm came to her, mamma would never look up again ? 
She would cry always." 

Meta bustled out of her mamma's arms, and stood before Miss 
Godolphin, earnest decision on her httle face. Aunt Janet, Meta won't 
run away again." 

And when the child voluntarily made a promise, they knew that she 
would keep it. Margery whirled her away, telling her in high tones 
of a young lady of her own age who would do something that she was 
bade not to do : the consequence of which act was, that the next time 
she went out for a walk, she was run at by a bull with brass tips on his 
horns. 

" Is the turret really dangerous ?" inquired Maria. 

" It is dangerous for a random child like Meta, who ventures into 
every hole and corner without reference to dust or danger," was Miss 
Godolphin's answer. " Would you like to go up, Maria ? " 

^' Yes, I should. I have heard George speak of the view from it." 

" Mind, Maria, the stairs are narrow and winding," interposed 
Bessy. 

Nevertheless, they went up, passing the open loopholes which might 
be dangerous to Meta. The first thing that Maria's eyes encountered 
when they had reached the top was a small boAV of violet-coloured 
ribbon. She stooped to pick it up. 

" It is a bow off Janet's evening dress," exclaimed Bessy. " Janet " — 
turning to her sister — what can have brought it here ? " 

I was up here last night," was the answer of Janet Godolphin, 
spoken with composure. 

That's just like you, Janet I " retorted Bessy. " To watch for that 
foolish Shadow, I suppose." 

Not to watch for it. To see it." 
Bessy was afflicted with a taint of heresy. They had never been 
able to imbue her with the superstition pertaining to the Godolphins. 
Bessy had seen the Shadow more than once with her own eyes ; but 



THE TRADITION OF THE DARK PLAIN. 



219 



they were practical eyes and not imaginative, and could not be made 
to see anything mysterious in it. The shadow is thrown by some 
tree or other," Bessy would say. And, in spite of its being pointed out 
to her that there was no tree, which could cast a shadow on the spot, 
Bessy obstinately held to her own opinion. 

Maria gazed from two sides of the turret. The view from both was 
magnificent. The one side overlooked the charming open country; 
the other. Prior's Ash. On the third side rose Lady Godolphin's Folly, 
standing out like a white foreground to the lovely expanse of scenery 
behind it ; the fourth side looked upon the Dark Plain. 
There's Charlotte Pain," said Bessy. 

Charlotte had returned home, it appeared, since Maria met her, and 
changed her attire. She was pacing the terrace of the Folly in her 
riding-habit, a whip in hand, and some dogs surrounding her. Maria 
turned towards the Dark Plain, and gazed upon it. 

" Is it true," she timidly asked, "that the Shadow has been there for 
the last night or two 1 

Janet answered the question by asking another. " Who told you it 
was there, Maria t " 

" I heard Margery say so." 

" Margery ? " repeated Janet. " That woman appears to know by 
instinct when the Shadow comes. She dreams it, I think. It is true, 
Maria, that it has appeared again," she continued, in a tone of un- 
natural composure. " I never saw it so black as it was last night.-' 

" Do you beheve that there can be anything in it — that it foretells 
ill?" asked Maria. 

" I know that it is the tradition handed down with our house : I 
know that, in my own experience, the Shadow never came but it brought 
ill," was the reply of Miss Godolphin. 

" What caused the superstition to arise in the first instance ? " asked 
Maria. 

" Has George never told you the tale ? " replied Janet. 

" Never. He says he does not remember it clearly enough. Will you 
not tell it me, Janet t " 

Janet hesitated. " One of the early Godolphins brought a curse upon 
the house," she at length began, in a low tone. ''It was that evil 
ancestor whose memory we would bury, were it possible ; he who earned 
for himself the title of the Wicked Godolphin. He killed his wife by a 
course of gradual and long-continued ill-treatment. He wanted her 
out of the way that another might fill her place. He pretended to have 
discovered that she was not worthy : than which assertion nothing 
could be more false and shameless, for she was one of the best ladies 
ever created. She was a de Commins, daughter of the warrior Richard 
de Commins, and was brave as she was good. She died ; and the 
Wicked Godolphin turned her coffin out of the house on to the Dark 
Plain ; there " — pointing to the open space before the archway—" to 
remain until the day of interment. But he did not wait for that day 
of interment to bring home his second wife." 

" Not wait ! " exclaimed Maria, her eager ears drinking in the story. 

" The habits in those early days will scarcely admit of allusion to 
them in these," continued Janet : " they savour of what is worse than 



^20 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



barbarism — sin. The father, Richard de Commins, heard of his child's 
death, and hastened to Ashlydyat, arriving by moonhght. The first 
sounds he encountered were the revels of the celebration of the second 
marriage ; the first sight he saw was the coffin of his daughter on the 
open plain, covered by a pall, two of her faithful women bending, the 
one at the head, the other at the foot, mourning the dead. While 
he halted there, kneeling in prayer, it was told to the Wicked Godol- 
phin that de Commins had arrived. He — that Wicked Godolphin — 
rushed madly out, and drew his sword upon him as he knelt. De 
Commins was wounded, but not mortally, and he rose to defend him- 
self A combat ensued, de Commins having no resource but to fight, 
and he was killed ; murdered. Weary with his journey, enfeebled by 
age, weakened by grief, his foot slipped, and the Wicked Godolphin, 
stung to fury by the few words of reproach de Commins had had time 
to speak, deliberately ran him through as he lay. In the moment of 
death, de Commins cursed the Godolphins, and prophesied that the 
shadow of his daughter's bier, as it appeared then, should remain as a 
curse upon the Godolphins' house for ever.'' 

But do you believe the story ? " cried Maria, breathlessly. 

How much of it may be true, how much of it addition, I cannot 
decide," said Janet. " One fact is indisputable : that a shadow, bearing 
the exact resemblance of a bier, with a mourner at its head and another 
at its foot, does appear capriciously on that Dark Plain ; and that it 
never yet showed itself, but some grievous ill followed for the Godol- 
phins. It is possible that the Shadow may have partially given rise to 
the story." 

Janet ! " cried Maria, leaning forward, her own tones hushed, " is it 
possible that one, in dying, can curse a whole generation, so that the 
curse shall take effect in the future?" 

Hush, child ! " rebuked Janet. " It does not become us to inquire 
into these things. Controversy about them is utterly useless, worse than 
profitless ; for there will be believers and unbelievers to the end of time. 
You wished me to tell you the story, Maria, and I have done so. I do 
no more. I do not tell you it is to be believed, or it is not to be believed. 
Let every one decide for himself, according as his reason, his instinct, 
or his judgment shall prompt him. People accuse me of being foolishly 
superstitious touching this Shadow and these old traditions. I can only 
say the superstition has been forced upon me by experience. When 
the Shadow appears, I cannot close my eyes to it and say, * It is not 
there.' It is there : and all I do is to look at it, and speculate. When 
the evil, which invariably follows the appearance of the Shadow, falls, 
I cannot close my heart to it, and say, in the teeth of facts, ' No evil 
has happened.' The Shadow never appeared, Maria, but it brought ill 
in its wake. It is appearing again now : and I am as certain that some 
great ill is in store for us, as that I am talking to you at this moment. 
On this point I ain superstitious." 

It is a long time, is it not, since the Shadow last appeared ?" 
"It is years. But I have not quite finished the story," resumed 
Janet. " The Wicked Godolphin killed Richard de Commins, and 
buried him that night on the Dark Plain. In his fury and passion he 
called his servants around him, ordered a grave to be dug, and assisted 



THE TRADITION OF THE DARK PLAIN. 221 



with his own hands. De Commins was put into it without the rites of 
burial. Tradition runs that so long as the bones 'emain unfound, the 
place will retain the appearance of a graveyard. 1 hey have been often 
searched for. That tragedy, no doubt, gave its name to the place — 
* The Dark Plain.' It cannot be denied that the place does wear much 
the appearance of a graveyard : especially by moonlight." 

" It is only the effect of the low gorse bushes," said Bessy. " They 
grow in a peculiar form. I know I would have those bushes rooted up, 
were I master of Ashlydyat ! " 

" Your father had it done, Bessy, and they sprang up again," replied 
Janet. " You must remember it." 

^' It could not have been done effectually," was Bessy's answer. 
" Papa must have had lazy men at work, who left the roots in. I would 
dig it all up and make a ploughed field of it." 

*^Did he do any other harm — that Wicked Godolphin?" asked 
Maria. 

" He ! Other harm ! " reiterated Janet, something like indignation at 
Maria's question mingling with surprise in her tone. " Don't you know 
that it was he who gambled away Ashlydyat? After that second 
marriage of his, he took to worse and worse courses. It was said that 
his second wife proved a match for him, and they lived together like 
two evil demons. All things considered, it was perhaps a natural 
sequence that they should so live," added Janet, severely. " And in 
the end he cut off the entail and gambled away the estate. Many years 
elapsed before the Godolphins could recover it." 

Maria was longing to put a question. She had heard that there 
were other superstitious marvels attaching to Ashlydyat, but she 
scarcely liked to mention them to the Miss Godolphins. George 
never would explain anything : he always turned it off with laughing 
raillery. 

" You — think — that Ashlydyat will pass away from the Godolphins, 
Janet ? " 

Janet shook her head. " We have been reared in the belief," she 
answered. " That the estate is to pass finally away from them, the 
Godolphins have been taught to fear ever since that unhappy time. 
Each generation, as they have come into possession, have accepted it 
as an uncertain tenure : as a thing that might last them for their time, 
or might pass away from them ere their earthly sojourn was completed. 
The belief was ; nay, the tradition was ; that so long as a reigning 
Godolphin held by Ashlydyat, Ashlydyat would hold by him and his. 
My father was the first to break it." 

Janet had taken up her dress, and sat down on a dusty, faded bench, 
the only article of furniture of any description that the square room 
contained. That strangely speculative look — it was scarcely an earthly 
one — had come into her eyes : and though she answered when spoken 
to, she appeared to be lost in sad, inward thought. Maria, some- 
what awed with the turn the conversation had taken, with the words 
altogether, stood against the opposite window, her delicate hands 
clasped before her, her face slightly bent forward, pale and grave. 

" Then, do you fear that the end for the Godolphins is at hand ? " 

" I seem to see that it is," replied Janet. " I have looked for it ever 



222 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



since my father left Ashlydyat. I might say — but that I should be 
laughed at more than I am for an idealist — that the strangers to whom 
he resigned it in his place, would have some bearing upon our fall, 
would in some way conduce to it. I think of these things ever," con- 
tinued Janet, almost as if she would apologize for the wildness of the 
confession. They seem to unfold themselves to me, to become clear 
and more clear : to be no longer fanciful fears darting across the brain, 
but realities of hfe." 

Maria's lips slightly parted as she listened. But the Verralls have 
left Ashlydyat a long while ? " she presently said. 

" I know they have. But they were usurpers here for the time. 
Better — as I believe — that my father had shut it up : better, far better, 
that he had never left it ! He knew it also : and it preyed upon him 
on his death-bed." 

" Oh, Janet ! the ill may not come in our time ! " 

"It may not. I am anxious to believe it may not, in defiance of the 
unalterable conviction that has seated itself within me. Let it pass, 
Maria; talking of it will not avert it: indeed, I do not know how I 
came to be betrayed into speaking of it openly." 

" But you have not told me about the sounds in the passages ? " urged 
Maria, as Janet rose from her dusty seat. 

" There is nothing more to tell. Peculiar sounds, as if caused by the 
wind, are heard. Moaning, sighing, rushing — the passages at times 
seem alive with them. It is said to come as a reminder to the Godol- 
phins of a worse sound that will sometime be heard, when Ashlydyat 
shall be passing away from them." 

" But you don't believe that ? " uttered Maria. 

" Child, I can scarcely tell you what I believe," was Janet's answer. 
" 1 can only pray that the one-half of what my heart prompts me to 
fear, may never take place in reality. That the noise does come, 
and without any apparent cause, is not a matter of belief, or disbelief : 
it is a fact, patent to all who have inhabited Ashlydyat. The Verralls 
can tell you so : they have had their rest broken by it." 

" And it is not caused by the wind ? " 

Janet shook her head in dissent. "It has come on the calmest and 
stillest night, when there has not been a breath of air to move the 
leaves of the ash-trees." 

Bessy turned from her pastime of watching Charlotte Pain : she had 
taken little part in the conversation. 

" I wonder at you, Janet. You will be setting Maria against Ash- 
lydyat. She will be frightened to come into it, should it lapse to 
George." 

Maria looked at her with a smile. " I should have no fear with him, 
superstitious or otherwise. If George took me to live in the catacombs, 
I could be brave with him." 

Ever the same blind faith : the unchanged love for her husband. 
Better, far better, that it should be so ! 

" For my part, I am content to take life and its good as I find it, and 
not waste my time in unprofitable dreams," was the practical remark 
of Bessy. " If any ill is to come, it must come ; but there's no need to 
look out for it beforehand." 



THE TRADITION OF THE DARK PLAIN. 223 



" There must be dreamers and there must be workers," answered 
Janet, picking her way down the winding stairs. We were not all 
born into the world with minds similarly constituted, or to fulfil the 
same parts in life." 

The day passed on. Thomas Godolphin came home in the evening 
to dinner, and said George had not returned. Maria wondered. It 
grew later. Margery went home with Meta : who thought she was 
very hardly used at having to go home before her mamma. 

" I had rather you would stay, Maria," Thomas said to her. " I 
particularly wish to say a word to George to-night on business 
matters ; if he finds you are here when he returns, he will come up." 

George did find so — as you already know. And when he left Mrs. 
Charlotte Pain, her torn dress and her other attractions, he bent his 
steps towards Ashlydyat. But, instead of going the most direct road 
to it, he took his way through the thicket where he had had the 
encounter an hour ago with Charlotte. There was a little spice of 
mystery about it which excited Mr. George's curiosity. That some 
one had parted from her he felt convinced, in spite of her denial. 
And that she was in a state of excitement, of agitation, far beyond 
anything he had ever witnessed in Charlotte Pain, was indisputable. 
George's thoughts went back, naturally, to the previous night : to the 
figure he had seen, and whom his eyes, his conviction, had told him 
was Charlotte. She had positively denied it, had said she had not 
quitted the drawing-room : and George had found her there, ap- 
parently composed and stationary. Nevertheless, though he had then 
yielded to her word, he began now to suspect that his own conviction 
had been correct : that the dark and partially disguised figure had 
been no other than Charlotte herself. It is probable that, however 
powerful was the hold Charlotte's fascinations may have taken upon 
the senses of Mr. George Godolphin, his trust in her, in her truth 
and single-heartedness, was not of the most perfect nature. What 
mystery was connected with Charlotte, or whom she met in the 
thicket, or whether she met any one or no one, she best knew. 
George's curiosity was sufficiently excited upon the point to induce 
him to walk with a slow step and searching eyes, lest haply he 
might come upon some one or something which should explain the 
puzzle. 

How runs the old proverb? " A watched-for visitor never comes." 
In vain George halted and listened ; in vain he peered into every 
part of the thicket within view. Not a step was to be heard, not a 
creature to be seen : and he emerged from the trees ungratified. Cross- 
ing the open grass by the turnstile he turned round by the ash-trees, to 
the Dark Plain. 

Turned and started. George Godolphin's thoughts had been on 
other things than the Shadow. The Shadow lay there, so pre-eminently 
dark, so menacing, that George positively started. Somehow — fond as 
he was of ignoring the superstition — George Godolphin did not like its 
look to-night. 

Upon entering Ashlydyat, his first interview was with Thomas. 
They remained for a few minutes alone. Thomas had business affairs 
to speak of : and George — it is more than probable — made some good 



224 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



excuse for his day's absence. That it would be useless to deny he had 
been to London, he knew. Charlotte had put him on his guard. Janet 
and Bessy asked innumerable questions of him when he joined them, on 
the score of his absence ; but he treated it in his usual light manner, 
contriving to tell them nothing. Maria did not say a word then : she 
left it till they should be alone. 

You will tell me, George, will you not ? " she gently said, as they 
were walking home together. 
^^Tell you what, Maria?" 
Oh, George, you know what " — and her tone, as Mr. George's ears 
detected, bore its sound of pain. "If you were going to London when 
you left me ; why did you deceive me by saying you were going else- 
where ? " 

" You goose ! Do you suppose I said it to deceive you ? " 
There was a lightness, an untruthfulness in his words, in his whole 
air and manner, which struck with the utmost pain upon Maria's heart. 
Why did you say it ? " was all she answered. 

" Maria, I'll tell you the truth," said he, becoming serious and confi- 
dential. " I wanted to run up to town on a little pressing matter of 
business, and I did not care that it should become known in the Bank. 
Had I known that I should be away for the day, of course I should 
have told Thomas : but I fully intended to be home in the afternoon : 
therefore I said nothing about it. I missed the train, or I should have 
been home in due time." 

" You might have told me," she sighed. I would have kept your 
counsel." 

So I would, had I thought you deemed it of any consequence," 
replied George. 

Consequence ! Maria walked on a few minutes in silence, her arm 
lying very spiritless within her husband's. "If you did not tell me," 
she resumed, in a low tone, " why did you tell Mrs. Pain ? " 

" Mrs. Pain's a donkey," was George's rejoinder. And it is probable 
Mr. George at that moment was thinking her one : for his tone in its 
vexation, was real enough. " My business was connected with Verrall, 
and I dropped a hint, in the hearing of Mrs. Pain, that I might proba- 
bly follow him to town. At any rate, I am safe home again, Maria, so 
no great harm has come of my visit to London," he concluded, in a 
gayer tone. 

" What time did you get in ? " she asked. 

" By the seven o'clock train." 

"The seven o'clock train!" she repeated in surprise. "And have 
only now come up to Ashlydyat ! " 

" I found a good many things to do after I got home," was the 
rejoinder. 

" Did you see Meta? Margery took her home at eight o'clock." 

Mr. George Godolphin had not seen Meta. Mr. George could have 
answered, had it so pleased him, that before the child reached home, 
he had departed on his evening visit to Lady Godolphin's Folly. 



( ) 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN. 

Saturday was a busy day at Prior's Ash ; it was a busy day at the 
banking-house of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin. Country towns 
and country banks are always more busy on a market-day. 

George Godolphin sat in the manager's room, full of business. Not 
much more than a week had elapsed since that visit of his to London ; 
and it was now Thomas's turn to be away. Thomas had gone to 
town. His errand there was to consult one of the first surgeons of the 
day, on the subject of his own health. Not so much that /le had hope 
from the visit, as that it would be a satisfaction to his family to have 
made it. 

George Godolphin was full of business. Full of talking also. A 
hearty country client, one who farmed a large number of acres, and 
generally kept a good round sum in the Bank's coffers, was with him. 
What little point of business he had had occasion to see one of the 
partners upon, was concluded, and he and George were making nierry 
together, enjoying a gossip as to the state of affairs in general and in 
particular, out of doors and in. Never a man more free from care (if 
appearances might be trusted) than George Godolphin ! When that 
hearty, honest farmer went forth, he would have been willing to testify 
that, of carking care, George possessed none. 

As he went on, George sat down and bent over some account-books. 
His face had changed. Lines, of what looked worse than care, grew 
out upon it, and he hfted his hand to his brow with a weary gesture. 
Another minute, and he was interrupted again. He had very little 
peace on a market-day. 

" Lord Averil wishes to see you, sir," said one of the clerks. It was 
Isaac Hastings. 

To any other announced name, George Godolphin's ready answer 
would have been, " Show him in." To that of Lord Averil he evidently 
hesitated, and a sudden flush dyed his face. Isaac, keen in observation 
as was his father, as was his sister Grace, noticed it. To him, it looked 
like a flush of shrinking fear 

"Did he ask for me?" 

"He asked for Mr. Godolphin, sir. He says it will be the same thing 
if he sees you. Shall I show him in?" 

" Of course," rephed George. " What do you stop for ? " he angrily 
added. 

He rose from his seat; he put a chair or two in place; he turned to 
the table, and laid rapidly some of its papers one upon another — all in 
a fuss and bustle not in the least characteristic of George Godolphin. 
Isaac thought he must have lost his usual presence of mind. As to the 
reproach addressed to himself, "What do you stop for?" — it had never 
been the custom to show clients into the presence of the partners with- 
out first asking for permission. 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 15 



226 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Lord Averil came in. George, only in that short time, had become 
himself again. They chatted a minute on passing topics, and Lord 
Averil mentioned that he had not known, until then, that Mr. Godolphin 
was in London. 

''He went up on Thursday," observed George. " I expect he will be 
back early in the week." 

" I intend to be in London myself next week," said Lord Averil. 
"Will it be convenient for me to have those bonds of mine to-day?" he 
continued. 

A sudden coursing on of all George's pulses ; a whirling rush in his 
brain. " Bonds?" he mechanically answered. 

"The bonds of that stock which your father bought for me years 
ago," explained Lord Averil. " They were deposited here for security. 
Don't you know it?" — looking at George's countenance, which seemed 
to speak only of perplexity. " Mr. Godolphin would know." 

" Oh yes, yes," replied George, regaining his breath and his courage. 
" It is all right ; I did not remember for the moment. Of course — the 
deposited bonds." 

" I am thinking of selling out," said Lord Averil. " Indeed, I have 
been for some time thinking of it, but have idly put it off. If it would 
be quite convenient to give me the bonds, I would take them to town 
with me. I shall go up on Monday or Tuesday." 

Now, George Godolphin, rally your wits ! What are you to answer ? 
George did rally them, in a lame manner. Confused words, which 
neither he nor Lord Averil precisely understood — to the effect that in 
Thomas Godolphin's absence, he, George, did not know exactly where 
to put his hand upon the securities — came forth. So Lord Averil 
courteously begged him not to take any trouble about it. He would 
leave them until another opportunity. 

He shook hands cordially with George, and went out, with a mental 
comment, " Not half the man of business that his brother is, and his 
father was: but wondrously like Cecil!" George watched the door 
close. He wiped the dewdrops which had gathered on his face; he 
looked round with the beseeching air of one seeking relief from some 
intense pain. Had Lord Averil persisted in his demand, what would 
have remained for him ? Those are the moments in which man has 
been tempted to resort to the one irredeemable sin. 

The door opened again, and George gave a gasp as one in agony. 
It was only Isaac Hastings. " Mr. Hurde wishes to know, sir, whether 
those bills are to go up to Glyn's to-day or Monday?" 

" They had better go to-day," rephed George. " Has Mr. Barnaby 
been in to-day?" he added, as Isaac was departing. 

" Not yet." 

" If he does not come soon, some one must go down to the corn market 
to him. He is sure to be there. That is, if he is in town to-day." 

" I know he is in town," replied Isaac. " I saw him as I was coming 
back from dinner. He was talking to Mr. Verrall." 

" To Mr. Verrall ! " almost shouted George, looking up as it electrified 
into hfe. "Is he back again ? " 

" He is back again, sir. I think he had only then arrived. He was 
coming from tov/ards the railway station." 



THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN, 



227 



" You are sure it was Mr. Verrall ? " reiterated George. 

Isaac Hastings smiled. What could make Mr. George Godolphin so 
eager 1 " I am sure it was Mr. Verrall." 

George felt as if a whole ton weight of care had been lifted from him. 
He had been so long in the habit of flying to Mr. Verrall in his 
difficulties, that it seemed to him he would only have to go to him, to 
remedy the one hanging over him now. Mr. Verrall had generally 
accomplished the task as men of his profession do accomplish such 
tasks^by laying up an awful day of reckoning for the future. That 
day was not now far off for George Godolphin. 

The Bank closed later on Saturdays, and George remained at his 
post to the end. Then he dined. Then, at the dusk hour — ^nay, at the 
hour of darkness, he went out to Lady Godolphin's Folly. Why was 
it that he rarely went to the Folly now, except under the covert shades 
of night? Did he fear people might comment on his intimacy with Mr. 
Verrall, and seek a clue to its cause? Or did he fear the world's 
gossip on another score? 

George arrived at Lady Godolphin's Folly, and was admitted to an 
empty room. " Mr. Verrall had returned, and had dined with Mrs. 
Pain, but had gone out after dinner," the servant said. He had 
believed Mrs. Pain to be in the drawing-room. Mrs. Pain was evidently 
not there, in spite of the man's searching eyes. He looked into the 
next room, with similar result. 

" Perhaps, sir, she has stepped out on the terrace with her dogs ? " 
observed the man. 

George — ungallant as he was ! — cared not where Mrs. Pain might 
have stepped at that present moment : his anxiety was for Mr. Verrall. 
" Have you any idea when your master will be in?" he inquired of the 
servant. 

" I don't think he'll be long, sir. I heard him say he was tired, and 
should go to bed early. He may have gone to Ashlydyat. He told 
Mrs. Pain that he had met Mr. Godolphin in town yesterday, and he 
should call and tell Miss Godolphin that he was better in London than 
he felt here. I don't know, sir, though, that he meant he should call 
to-night." 

The man left the room, and George remained alone. He drummed 
on the table ; he tried several seats in succession ; he got up and looked 
at his face in the glass. A haggard face then. Where was Verrall? 
Where was Charlotte ? She might be able to tell him where Verrall 
had gone, and when he would be in. Altogether George was in a state 
of restlessness little better than torture. 

He impatiently opened the glass doors, which were only closed, not 
fastened, and stood a few moments looking out upon the night. He 
gazed in all directions, but could see nothing of Charlotte ; and Mr. 
Verrall did not appear to be coming. " I'll see," suddenly exclaimed 
George, starting off, " whether he is at Ashlydyat." 

He did well. Action is better than inertness at these moments. 
Standing outside the porch at Ashlydyat, talking to a friend, was 
Andrew, one of their servants. When he saw George, he drew back 
to hold open the door for him. 

" Are my sisters alone, Andrew? " 



228 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDVAT. 



" Yes, sir." 

George scarcely expected the answer, and it disappointed him. 
" Quite alone?" he reiterated. " Has no one called on them to-night?" 

The man shook his head, wondering probably who Mr. George might 
be expecting to call. " They are all alone, sir. Miss Janet has one of 
her bad headaches." 

George did not want to go in, Mr. Verrall not being there, and this 
last item afforded him an excuse for retreating without doing so. 
" Then I'll not disturb her to-night," said he. " You need not say that 
I came up, Andrew." 

" Very well, sir." 

He quitted Andrew, and turned off to the left, deep in thought, 
striking into a sheltered path. It was by no means the direct road 
back to the Folly, neither was it to Prior's Ash. In point of fact, it led 
to nothing but the Dark Plain and its superstition. Not a woman- 
servant of Ashlydyat, perhaps not one of its men, would have gone^ 
down that path at night : for at the other end it brought them out to 
the archway, before which the Shadow was wont to show itself. 

Why did George take it? He could not have told. Had he been 
asked why, he might have said that one way, to a man bowed under 
a sharp weight of trouble, is the same as another. True. But the 
path led him to no part where he could wish to go : and he would 
have to make his way to Lady Godolphin's Folly through the gorse 
bushes of the Dark Plain, over the very Shadow itself. These appa- 
rently chance steps, which seem to be taken without premeditation or 
guidance of ours, sometimes lead to strange results. 

George went along moodily, his hands in his pockets, his footfalls 
slow and light. But for the latter fact, he might not have had the 
pleasure of disturbing a certain scene that was taking place under cover 
of the archway. 

Were they ghosts, enacting it? Scarcely. Two forms, ghostly or 
human, were there. One of them looked like a woman's. It was dressed 
in dark clothes, and a dark shawl was folded over the head, not, however, 
conceahng the features — and they were those of Charlotte Pain. She, 
at any rate, was not ghostly. The other, George took to be Mr. Verrall. 
He was leaning against the brickwork, in apparently as hopeless a 
mood as George himself. 

They were enjoying a quarrel. Strange that they should leave the 
house and come to this lonely spot in the grounds of Ashlydyat to 
hold it ! Charlotte was evidently in one of her tempers. She paced 
to and fro under the archway, something like a restrained tiger, 
pouring forth a torrent of sharp words and reproaches, all in a sup- 
pressed tone. 

" I'll tell you what it is," were the first distinct words of anger George 
caught. But her companion interrupted her, his tone one of sadness 
and humility. 

" I'll tell you what it is, Charlotte " 

The start made by George Godolphin at the tones of the voice, the 
involuntary sound of utter astonishment that escaped him, disturbed 
them. Charlotte, with a cry ot terror, darted one way, her companion 
another. 



THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN. 



229 



But the latter was not quick enough to elude George Godolphin. 
Springing forward, George caught him in his powerful grasp, really to 
assure himself that it was no ghost, but genuine flesh and blood. Then 
George turned the face to the starhght, and recognized the features of 
the dead-and-gone Mr. Rodolf Pain. 

The return of a husband, popularly supposed to be dead and out of 
the way for good, may be regarded by the wife as a blessing from some 
special providence, or as a source of annoying embarrassment, accord- 
ing to the lady's own feeling on the subject. Undoubtedly, Charlotte 
Pain looked upon it, and most unmistakably so, in the latter light. 
Charlotte knew, better than the world, that Mr. Rodolf Pain was not 
dead ; but she had believed him to be as surely out of her way as 
though death and some safe metropolitan cemetery had irrevocably 
claimed him. Whatever trifling accident might have happened to put 
Mr. Rodolf Pain and the British criminal law at issue, Charlotte, at any 
rate, had assumed it one not to be easily got over, except by the per- 
petual exile of the gentleman from the British shores. When the little 
affair had occurred, and Mr. Rodolf had saved himself and his liberty 
by only a hair's-breadth, choosing a foreign exile and a false name in 
preference to some notoriety at a certain court (a court which does not 
bear a pleasant sound, and rises ominous and dark and gloomy in the 
heart of the city), it had pleased Charlotte and those connected with 
her to give out that Mr. Rodolf Pain had died. In Mr. Rodolf Pain's 
going out of the world by death, there was certainly no disgrace, pro- 
vided that he went out naturally ; that is, without what may be called 
malice prepense on his own part. But, for Mr. Rodolf Pain to be com- 
pelled to make his exit from London society after another fashion, was 
quite a different affair — an affair which could never have been quite 
tolerated by Charlotte : not on his score, but on her own. Any super- 
fluous consideration for him, Charlotte had never been troubled with. 
Before her marriage she had regarded him in the light of a nonentity ; 
since that ceremony, as an incumbrance. Therefore, on the whole, 
Charlotte was tolerably pleased to get rid of him, and she played her 
role of widow to perfection. No inconvenient disclosure, as to the facts 
of his hasty exit, had come out to the public, for it had fortunately 
happened that the transaction, or transactions, which led to it, had not 
been done in his own name. To describe Charlotte's dismay when he 
returned, and she found her fond assumption of his perpetual exile to 
have been a false security, would take a cleverer pen than mine. No 
other misfortune known to earth, could have been looked upon by 
Charlotte as so dire a calamity. Had Prior's Ash been blown up, her- 
self included, by some sprung mine, or swallowed down by an earth- 
quake, it would have been little, in comparison. 

It certainly was not pleasant to be startled by a faint tap at the 
unscreened window, while she sat under the chandelier, busy at what 
she so rarely attempted, some useless fancy-work. Yet that was the 
unceremonious manner in which her husband made his return known 
to her. Charlotte was expecting no visitors that night. It was the 
night of George Godolphin's dinner-party, at which Mr. Verrall had 
not appeared, having started for London instead. When the tapping 
came, Charlotte turned her head towards the window in surprise. No 



230 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



one was in the habit of entering that way, save free-and-easy George 
Godolphin; he would now and then do so; sometimes Mr. Verrall. 
But Charlotte knew of George's dinner party, and Mr. Verrall was away. 
She could see nothing of the intruder : the room was ablaze with light ; 
outside, it was, comparatively speaking, dark ; and the window was also 
partially shaded by its lace curtains. Charlotte thought she must have 
been mistaken, and went on unravelling her crochet mat. 

The tapping came again. " Very odd ! " thought Charlotte. " Come 
in," she called out. 

No one came in. There was no response at all for a minute or two. 
Then there came another timid tapping. 

Charlotte's dress was half covered with cotton. She rose, shook it, 
let the cotton and the mat (what remained of it) fall to the ground, 
walked to the window, and opened it. 

At the first moment she could see nothing. It was bright moonlight, 
and she had come from the blazing light within, beside which that outer 
light was so cold and pure. Not for that reason could she see nothing, 
but because there appeared to be nothing to see. She ranged her eyes 
in vain over the terrace, over the still landscape beyond. 

"Charlotte!" 

It was the faintest possible voice, and close to her. Faint as it was 
J:hough, there was that in its tone which struck on every fibre of Char- 
lotte's frame with dismay. Gathered against the walls of the Folly, 
making a pretence to shelter himself beyond a brilliant cape-jessamine 
which was trained there, was the slight figure of a man. A mere shred 
of a man, with a shrinking, attenuated frame : the frame of one who 
has lived in some long agony, bodily or mental : and a white face that 
shivered as he stood. 

Not more white, not more shivering than Charlotte's. Her com- 
plexion — well, you have heard of it, as one too much studied to allow 
vulgar changes to come upon it, in a general way. But there are 
moments in a hfetime when Nature asserts herself, and Art retires 
before her. Charlotte's face turned to the hue of the dead, and Char- 
lotte's dismay broke forth in a low passionate wail. It was Rodolf 
Pain. 

A moment of terrified bewilderment ; a torrent of rapid words ; not 
of sympathy, or greeting, but of anger; and Charlotte was pushing 
him away with her hands, she neither knew nor cared whither. It was 
dangerous for him to be there, she said. He must go. 

"I'll go into the thicket, Charlotte," he answered, pointing to the 
trees on the left. " Come to me there." 

He glided off as he spoke, under cover of the walls. Charlotte, 
feeling that she should like to decline the invitation had she dared, 
enveloped her head and shoulders in a black shawl, and followed him. 
Nothing satisfactory came of the interview — except recrimination. 
Charlotte was in a towering passion that he should have ventured back 
at all ; Rodolf complained that between them all he had been made 
the scapegoat. In returning home, she caught sight of George Godol- 
phin approaching the house, just as she was about to steal across the 
lawn. Keeping under cover of the trees, she got in by a back entrance, 
and sat down to her work in the drawing-room, protesting to George, 



THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN. 



231 



when he was admitted, that she had not been out. No wonder her face 
looked strange in spite of its embelHshments ! 

Her interviews with Rodolf Pain appeared to be ill chosen. On the 
following night she met him in the same place : he had insisted upon 
it, and she did not dare refuse. More recrimination, more anger ; in 
the midst of which George Godolphin again broke upon them. Char- 
lotte screamed aloud in her terror, and Rodolf ran away. But that 
Charlotte laid detaining hands upon George, the returned man might 
have been discovered then, and that would not have suited Charlotte. 

A few more days and that climax was to arrive. The plantation 
appearing unsafe, Rodolf Pain proposed the archway. There they 
should surely be unmolested : the ghostly fears of the neighbourhood 
and of Ashlydyat kept every one away from the spot. And there, 
two or three times, had Charlotte met him, quarrelling always, when 
they were again intruded upon, and again by George. This time to 
some purpose. 

George Godolphin's astonishment was excessive. In his wildest 
flights of fancy he had never given a thought to the suspicion that 
Rodolf Pain could be alive. Charlotte had not been more confidential 
with George than with the rest of the world. Making a merit of what 
could not well be avoided, she now gave him a few particulars. 

For when she looked back in her flight and saw that Rodolf Pain 
was fairly caught, that there was no further possibility of the farce of 
his death being kept up to George, she deemed it well to turn back 
again. Better bring her managing brains to the explanation, than leave 
it to that simple calf, whom she had the honour of calling husband. 
The fact was, Rodolf Pain had never been half cunning enough, half 
rogue enough, for the work assigned him by Mr. Verrall. He — Mr. 
Verrall — had always said that Rodolf had brought the trouble upon 
himself, in consequence of trying to exercise a little honesty. Charlotte 
agreed with the opinion : and every contemptuous epithet cast by Mr. 
Verrall on the unfortunate exile, Charlotte had fully echoed^ 

George was some little time before he could understand as much 
as was vouchsafed him of the explanation. They stood in the shadow 
of the archway, Charlotte keeping her black shawl well over her head 
and round her face ; Rodolf, his arms folded, leaning against the inner 
circle of the stonework. 

" What, do you say? sent you abroad.'^" questioned George, somewhat 
bewildered. 

" It was that wretched business of Appleby's," replied Rodolf Pain. 
" You must have heard of it. The world heard enough of it." 

"Appleby — Appleby? Yes, I remember," remarked George. "A 
nice swindle it was. But what had you to do with it ? " 

" In point of fact, I only had to do with it at second-hand," said Ro- 
dolf Pain, his tone one of bitter meaning. "It was Verrall's affair — as 
everything else is. I only executed his orders." 

" But surely neither you nor Verrall had anything to do with that 
swindhng business of Appleby's?" cried George, his voice as full of 
amazement as the other's was of bitterness. 

Charlotte interposed, her manner so eager, so flurried, as to impart 
the suspicion that she must have some personal interest in it. " Rodolf^ 



232 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



hold your tongue ! Where's the use of bringing up this old speculative 
nonsense to Mr. George Godolphin ? He does not care to hear about it." 

I would bring it up to all the world if I could," was Rodolf s answer, 
ringing with its own sense of injury. Verrall told me in the most 
solemn manner that if things ever cleared, through Appleby's death, 
or in any other way, so as to make it safe for me to return, that that 
hour he would send for me. Well ; Appleby has been dead these six 
months ; and yet he leaves me on, on, on, in the New World, without 
so much as a notice of it. Now, it's of no use growing fierce again, 
Charlotte! I'll tell Mr. George Godolphin if I please. I am not the 
patient slave you helped to drive abroad : the trodden worm turns at 
last. Do you happen to know, sir, that Appleby's dead ? " 

" I don't know anything about Appleby," rephed George* " I re- 
member the name, as being owned by a gentleman who was subjected 
to some bad treatment in the shape of swindling, by one Rustin. But 
what had you or Verrall to do with it ? " 

" Psha ! " said Rodolf Pain. " Verrall was Rustin." 

George Godolphin opened his eyes to their utmost width. " N — o ! " 
he said, very slowly, certain curious ideas beginning to crowd into his 
mind. Certain remembrances also. 

He was. — Charlotte, I tell you it is of no use : I will speak. What 
does it matter, Mr. George Godolphin's knowing it ? Verrall was the 
real principal — Rustin, in fact ; I, the ostensible one. And I had to 
suffer." 

" Did Appleby think you were Rustin ? " inquired George, thoroughly 
bewildered. 

" Appleby at one time thought I was Verrall. Oh, I assure you there 
were wheels within wheels at work there. Of course there had to be, 
to carry on such a concern as that. It is so still. Verrall, you know, 
could not be made the scapegoat ; he takes care of that — besides, it 
would blow the whole thing to pieces, if any evil fell upon him. It fell 
upon me, and I had to suffer for it, and abroad I went. I did not 
grumble; it would have been of no use: had I stayed at home and 
braved it out, I should have been sent abroad, I suppose, at her 
Majesty's cost " 

Charlotte interrupted, in a terrible passion. " Have you no sense of 
humiliation, Rodolf Pain, that you tell these strange stories.'* Mr. 
George Godolphin, I pray you do not hsten to him ! " 

^' I am safe," rephed George. " Pain can say what he pleases. It is 
safe with me." 

" As to humiliation, that does not fall so much to my share as it does 
to another's, in the light I look at it. I was not the principal ; I was 
only the scapegoat ; principals rarely are made the scapegoats in that 
sort of business. Let it go, I say. I took the punishment without a 
word. But, now that the man's dead, and I can come home with 
safety, I want to know why I was not sent for ? " 

" I don't believe the man's dead," observed Charlotte. 

" I am quite sure that he is dead," said Rodolf Pain. I was told 
it from a sure and certain source, some one who came out there, and 
who used to know Appleby. He said the death was in the Times ^ and 
he knew it for a fact besides," 



THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN. 



233 



" Appleby ? Appleby ? " mused George, his thoughts going back to 
a long-past morning, when he had been an unseen witness to Char- 
lotte's interview with a gentleman giving that name — who had 
previously accosted him in the porch at Ashlydyat, mistaking it for 
the residence of Mr. Verrall. " I remember his coming down here 
once." 

" I remember it too," said Rodolf Pain, significantly, " and the 
passion it put Verrall into. Verrall thought his address, down here, 
had oozed out through my carelessness. The trouble that we had with 
that Appleby, first and last ! It went on for years. The bother was 
patched up at times, but only to break out again ; and to send me into 
exile at last." 

" Does Verrall know of his death ? " inquired George of Rodolf. 

" There's not a doubt that he must know of it. And Charlotte says 
she won't ask Verrall, and won't tell him I am here ! My belief is that 
she knows Appleby's dead." 

Charlotte had resumed her walk under the archway : pacing there — 
as was remarked before — like a restrained tiger. She took no notice 
of Rodolf s last speech. 

" Why not tell Verrall yourself that you are here ? " was George's 
sensible question. 

"Well — you see, Mr. George Godolphin, I'd rather not, as long as 
there's the least doubt as to Appleby's death. / feel none myself : 
but if it should turn out to be a mistake, my appearance here would 
do good neither to me nor to Verrall. And Verrall's a dangerous 
man to cross. He might kill me in his passion. It takes a good 
deal to put him into one, but when it does come, it's like a tornado." 

"You acknowledge that there is a doubt as to Appleby's death, 
then ! " sarcastically cried Charlotte. 

" I say that it's just possible. It was not being fully certain that 
brought me back in this clandestine way. What I want you to do is 
to ask Verrall if Appleby's dead. I believe he will answer * Yes.' 
* Very well,' then you can say, ' Rodolf Pain's home again.' And 
if " 

" And if he says, ^ No, he is not dead,' what then ? " fiercely inter- 
rupted Charlotte. 

" Then you can tell me privately, and I must depart the way I came. 
But I don't depart without being satisfied of the fact," pointedly added 
Mr. Pain, as if he had not entire and implicit reliance upon Charlotte's 
word. " My firm belief is that he is dead, and that Verrall will tell you 
he is dead. In that case I am a free man to-morrow." 

Charlotte turned her head towards him, terrible anger in her tone, 
and in her face. " And how is your reappearance to be accounted for 
to those who look upon you as dead ? " 

" I don't care how," indifferently answered Rodolf. " I did not spread 
the report of my own death. If you did, you can contradict it." 

" If I did do it, it was to save your reputation," returned Charlotte, 
scarcely able to speak in her passion. 

" / know," said Rodolf Pain. " You feared something or other might 
come out about your husband, and so you thought you'd kill me off-hand. 
Two for yourself and one for me, Charlotte." 



234 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



She did not answer. 
If my coming back is so annoying to you, we can live apart," he 
resumed. " You pretty well gave me a sickener before I went away. 
As you know." 

" This must be an amusing dialogue to Mr. George Godolphin ! " 
fumed Charlotte. 

" May-be," replied Rodolf Pain, his tone sad and weary. " I have been 
so hardly treated between you and Verrall, Charlotte, that I don't care 
who knows it." 

"Where are you staying?" asked George, wondering whether the 
shady spots about Ashlydyat sheltered him by day as well as by night. 

" Not far away, sir : at a roadside inn," was the answer. No one 
knew me much, about here, in the old days ; but, to make assurance 
doubly sure, I only come out in the evening. Look here, Charlotte. 
If you refuse to ask Verrall, or to help me, I shall go to London, and 
obtain the information there. I am not quite without friends in the 
great city : they would receive me better than you have received me." 
^ " I wonder you did not go there at once," said Charlotte, sharply. 

"It was natural that I should go first where my wife was," returned 
Rodolf Pain ; " even though she had not been the most affectionate of 
wives to me." 

Charlotte was certainly not showing herself particularly affectionate 
then, whether she had, or had not, in the past days. Truth to say, 
whatever may have been her personal predilection or the opposite for 
the gentleman, his return had brought all her fears to the surface. His 
personal safety was imperilled; and, with that, disgrace loomed in 
ominous attendance ; a disgrace which would be reflected upon Char- 
lotte. Could she have sent Rodolf Pain flying on electric wires to the 
remotest region of the known or unknown globe, she would have done 
it then. 

Leaving them to battle out their dispute alone, George Godolphin 
bent his steps to Lady Godolphin's Folly, walking over the very Shadow, 
black as jet, treading in and out amid the dwarf bushes, which, when 
regarded from a distance, looked so like graves. He gained the Folly, 
and rang. 

The servant admitted him to the drawing-room. It was empty as 
before. " Has Mr. Verrall not come in ? " asked George. 

" He has come in, sir. I thought he was here. I will look for 
him." 

George sat on alone. Presently the man returned. "My master has 
retired for the night, sir." 

" What ! Gone to bed ? " cried George. 
" Yes, sir." 

" Did you tell him I had been here when he came in?" 
" I told him you had been here, sir. In fact, I thought you were here 
still. I did not know you had left." 

" Did Mr. Verrall tell you now that he could see me? " 
"He told me to say that he had retired for the night, sir." 
"Is he in bed ? " questioned George. 

The servant hesitated. " He spoke to me through the door, sir. He 
did not open it." 



THE DEAD ALIVE AGAIN. 



235 



George caught up his hat, the very movement of his hand showing 
displeasure. " Tell your master that I shall be here the first thing in 
the morning. I want to see him." 

He passed out, a conviction upon his mind — though he could scarcely 
tell why it should have arisen — that Mr. Verrall had not retired for the 
night, but that he had gone upstairs merely to avoid him. The thought 
angered him excessively. When he had gone some little distance 
beyond the terrace, he turned and looked at the upper windows of the 
house. There shone a light in Mr. Verrall's chamber. " Not in bed, 
at any rate," thought George. " He might have seen me if he would. 
I shall tell him " 

A touch upon George's arm. Some one had glided silently up. He 
turned and saw Charlotte. 

" You will not betray the secret that you have learnt to-night ? " she 
passionately whispered. 

" Is it likely?" he asked. 

" He is only a fool, you know, at the best," was her next com- 
plimentary remark. " But fools give more trouble sometimes than wise 
people." 

" You may depend upon me," was George's rejoinder. " Where is 
he?" 

" Got rid of for the night," said Charlotte, in a terrible tone. " Are 
you going in to see Verrall ? " 

" No. Verrall declines to see me. I am going home. Good night." 

" Declines to see you ? He is tired, I suppose. Good night, 
George 1 " 

George Godolphin walked away at a sober pace, reflecting on the 
events of the day — of the evening. That he had been intensely surprised 
by the resuscitation of Rodolf Pain was indisputable ; but George had 
too much care upon him to give it more than a passing thought, now 
that the surprise was over. Rodolf Pain occupied a very small space 
in the estimation of George Godolphin. Charlotte had just said he was 
a fool : probably George shared in the opinion. 

But, however much he felt inclined to dismiss the gentleman from his 
mind, he could not so readily dismiss a certain revelation made by him. 
That Rustin was Verrall. Whoever " Rustin " may have been, or what 
had been his influence on the fortunes, good or ill, of Mr. George 
Godolphin, it concerns us not very closely to inquire. That George 
had had dealings with this ^' Rustin " — dealings which did not bear for 
him any pleasant reminiscence — and that George had never in his life 
got to see this Rustin, are sufficient facts for us to know. Rustin was 
one of those who had contrived to ease George of a good deal of super- 
fluous money at odd times, leaving only trouble in its place. Many 
a time had George prayed Verrall's good offices with his friend Rustin, 
to hold over this bill ; to renew that acceptance. Verrall had never 
refused, and his sympathy with George and abuse of Rustin were great, 
when his mediation proved — as was sometimes the case — unsuccessful. 
To hear that this Rustin was Verrall himself, opened out a whole field 
of suggestive speculation to George. Not pleasant speculation, you 
may be sure. 

He sat himself down, in his deep thought, on that same spot where 



236 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Thomas Godolphin had sat the evening of George's dinner-party ; the 
broken bench, near the turnstile. Should he be able to weather the storm 
that was gathering so ominously above his head ? Was that demand 
of Lord Averil's to-day the first rain-drop of the darkening clouds? 
In sanguine moments — and most moments are sanguine to men of the 
light temperament of George Godolphin — he felt not a doubt that he 
should weather it. There are some men who systematically fling care 
and gloom from them. They cannot look trouble steadily in the face : 
they glance aside from it ; they do not see it if it comes : they clothe it 
with the rose-hues of hope : but look at it, they do not. Shallow and 
careless by nature, they cannot feel deep sorrow themselves, or be too 
cautious of any wrong they inflict on others. They may bring ruin 
upon the world, but they go jauntily on their way. George had gone 
on in his way, in an easy, gentlemanly sort of manner, denying himself 
no gratification, and giving httle heed to the day of reckoning that might 
come. 

But on this night his mood had changed. Affairs generally were 
wearing to him an aspect of gloom : of gloom so preternaturally dark 
and hopeless, that his spirits were weighed down by it. For one thing, 
this doubt of Verrall irritated him. If the man had played him false, 
had been holding the cards of a double game, why, what an utter fool 
he, George, had been ! How long he sat on that lonely seat he never 
knew : as long as his brother had, that past night. The one had been 
ruminating on his forthcoming fate — death ; the other was lost in the 
anticipation of a worse fate— disgrace and ruin. As he rose to pursue 
his way down the narrow and ghostly Ash-tree Walk, a low cry burst 
from his lips, sharp as the one that had been wrung from Thomas in 
his physical agony. 



CHAPTER X. 

NINE THOUSAND AND FORTY-FIVE POUNDS. 

A SHORT time elapsed. Summer weather began to show itself in 
Prior's Ash, and all things, so far as any one saw or suspected, were 
going on smoothly. Not a breath of wind had yet stirred up the 
dangerous current; not the faintest cloud had yet come in the fair 
sky, to indicate that a storm might be gathering. One rumour how- 
ever had gone forth, and Prior's Ash mourned sincerely and crusted 
it was not true — the state of health of Thomas Godolphin. He 
attacked with an incurable complaint, as his mother had been? Prior's 
Ash beheved it not. 

He had returned from his visit to town with all his own suspicions 
confirmed. But the medical men had seemed to think that the fatal 
result might not overtake him yet; probably not for years. They 
enjoined tranquillity upon him, both of mind and body, and recom- 
mended him to leave the cares of business, so far as was practicable, 
to other people. Thomas smiled when he recited this piece of advicQ 
to George. I had better retire upon my fortune," he laughed, 



NINE THOUSAND AND FORTY-FIVE POUNDS. 237 



Do so," cried George, impulsively. " That is " — for a disagreeable 
consciousness came upon him, as he spoke, that Thomas's " fortune," if 
looked into, might be found more easy to talk of than to realize — " you 
can virtually retire, by remaining quietly at Ashlydyat. Don't come 
down to the Bank. I can manage quite well without you." 

Thomas shook his head. "So long as I am at all capable, George, 
I shall not give up. I believe it is my duty not to do so. If what the 
doctors say is correct — that I may live on in my present state, or 
nearly in my present state, for years — you may be an older and a wiser 
man by the time you are left alone. When you shall have gained grey 
hair, George, and a stoop in the shoulders. Prior's Ash will be thinking 
you a stronger and a better man than I have ever been." 

George made no reply. He knew which had been the better man, 
himself or his brother. 

Everything, I say, seemed to go on in its old routine. Thomas 
Godolphin came to business ; not every day, but frequently. George 
gave his dinner-parties, and rode as much as ever with Charlotte Pain. 
What Charlotte had done with her husband, was her affair. He no 
longer disturbed the night stillness of the Dark Plain, or of Lady 
Godolphin's Folly ; and not a suspicion of his unwelcome revival from 
the dead had transpired beyond George Godolphin. Charlotte casu- 
ally said one day to George that Rodolf was in London. Perhaps he was. 

Yes, gay as ever, in the day, was George Godolphin. If he had care, 
he kept it to himself, and no one saw or suspected it. George was 
persuadable as a child ; seeing little farther than his own nose ; and 
Mr. Verrall had contrived to lull the suspicions awakened by the 
words of Rodolf Pain. Mr. Verrall had not remained long at Lady 
Godolphin's Folly : he was soon away again, and Charlotte had it to 
herself, queen regnant. George had not forgotten to pay his evening 
visits there. There or elsewhere, he was out most evenings. And 
when he came in, he would go into the Bank, and remain alone in the 
manager's room, often for hours. 

One evening — it was the greatest wonder in the world — he had not 
gone out. At eight o'clock he had gone into the Bank and shut him- 
self in. An hour afterwards Maria knocked, and he admitted her. 

George was at a large table ; it was covered with account-books. 
Hard at work he appeared to be, making entries with his pen, by the 
light of his shaded lamp. " How busy you are, George ! " she cried. 

" Ay," said he, pleasantly. " Let no one call me idle again." 

" But why need you do it, George ? You used not to work at 
night." 

" More work falls to my score, now Thomas does not take his full 
share of it," observed George. 

" Does it? I fancied neither you nor Thomas had much actual work 
to do. I thought you left it to the clerks. Isaac laughed at me one 
day, a long time ago, when I said something about your keeping the 
bank accounts. He asked me what I thought clerks were paid for." 

" Never mind Isaac. What have you come in for? To tell me you 
are dull? — as you did last night." 

" No. But I do get to feel very dull in an evening. You are scarcely 
ever with me now, George." 



238 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Business must be attended to," responded George. " You should 
get some visitors in." 

They would not be you," was Maria's answer, simply spoken. " I 
came to tell you now that papa is here. Have you time to come and 
see him ? " 

George knitted his brow. The prospect of entertaining the Reverend 
Mr. Hastings did not appear to have charms for him. Not that he 
allowed Maria to see the frown. She continued : 

" Papa has been talking about the Chisholm property. The money 
is paid over, and he has brought it here for safety." 

" Brought it to-night? " echoed George. 

" Yes. He said it might be an unprofessional mode of doing business, 
but he supposed you would receive it," she added, laughing. 

How much is it?" cried George — all too eagerly, had Maria not 
been unsuspicious. 

" Nine — let me see — yes, I think he said nine thousand pounds." 

George Godolphin closed the books before him, more than one of 
which was open, locked them up, put out the lamp, and accompanied 
his wife to the dining-room. 

"Will you let me lodge some money here to-night?" asked Mr. 
Hastings, as he shook hands. 

''As much as you like,", replied George, gaily. "We can accommo- 
date an unlimited amount." 

The Rector took out a large pocket-book, and counted down some 
bank-notes upon the table. " Brierly, the agent, brought it to me an 
hour ago," he observed, " and I had rather your Bank had charge of it 
than my house. Nine thousand and forty-five pounds, Mr. George." 

George counted the notes after Mr. Hastings. " I wonder Brierly 
did not give a cheque for it," he observed. " Did he bring the money 
over from Binham ? " 

" He came over in his gig. He said it had been paid to him in 
money, and he brought it just as it was. I'll trouble you for a receipt, 
George." 

George carried the money away and came back with the receipt. 
" It must be placed to your account, I suppose, sir ? " he observed. 

" Of course," answered Mr. Hastings. " You can't place it to the 
credit of the little Chisholms. It is the first time I was ever left 
trustee," he remarked, " and I hope it will be the last." 

"Why so?" asked George. 

" Why so ? Because I like neither the trouble nor the responsibility. 
As soon as my co-trustee returns, the money is to be placed out on 
approved security : until then, you must take charge of it. It is a 
small sum after all, compared with what was expected." 

"Very small," assented George. "Is it all that the property has 
realized? " 

" Every shilling — except the expenses. And lawyers, and agents, 
and auctioneers, take care that they shall never be slight," added Mr. 
Hastings, his lip curhng with the cynical expression that was some- 
times seen on it. 

" It's their trade, sir." 

" Ay. What a cutting up of property it is, this forced seUing of an 



THOSE BONDS AGAIN ! 



239 



estate, through death ! " he exclaimed. " Many a time has poor 
Chishohii said to me, in his last illness : * There'll be hard upon twenty 
thousand to divide amongst them, when it's all sold.' And there is not 
ten 1 " 

" I suppose everything was sold ? " said George. 

" Everything. House, land, ricks as they stood, farming stock, 
cattle, and furniture: everything, even to the plate and the books. 
The will so expressed it. I suppose Chisholm thought it best." 

"Where are the children, papa?" asked Maria. 

" The two girls are at school, the little boy is with his granamother. 
I saw the girls last week when I was at Binham." 

" The boy is to be a clergyman, is he not, papa? " 

The Rector answered the question in a tone of rebuke. " When he 
shall be of an age to choose, should he evince liking and fitness for the 
Church, then he is to be allowed to enter it. Not otherwise, Maria." 

" How is the property left?" asked George. 

" It is to be invested, and the interest devoted to the education and 
maintenance of the three, the boy being allowed a larger share of the 
interest than the girls. When the youngest, the boy, shall be of age, 
the principal is to be divided equally between them. Such are the 
terms of the will." 

" What is it to be invested in? " 

" The funds, I suppose. It is left to the discretion of myself and Mr. 
Harknar. I shall let him decide : he is more of a man of business 
than I am." 

So they talked on. When Mr. Hastings, a short while before, had 
found himself left guardian and co-trustee to the children of a friend 
just deceased, his first impulse had been to dechne the trust. Even- 
tually he had accepted it. The other gentleman named, Mr. Harknar, 
had gone on business to one of the Ionian Islands, but he was now 
shortly expected home. 

An hour the Rector sat with them, talking of the orphaned Chisholms, 
and of other matters. When he took his departure, George went again 
into the Bank, and sat down to work at his books by the light of the 
shaded lamp. He was certainly more attentive to business by night 
than by day. 



CHAPTER XI. 

THOSE BONDS AGAIN ! 

Once more — it was the afternoon of the day following that evenmg 
visit of All Souls' Rector to the Bank — Isaac Hastings entered the 
manager's room to announce a visitor to Mr. George Godolphin. Lord 
Averil. 

George looked up : a startled expression crossing his face. It was 
instantly suppressed : but, not for his very Hfe could he have helped its 
appearance in the first moment. 

" W^hen did he come to Prior's Ash? " 



240 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I don't know," replied Isaac. " I told him I was not sure but 
you were engaged, sir. I had thought Mr. Arkwright was with you. 
Lord Averil asked me to come and see : he particularly wishes to see 
you, he says." 

^' I am engaged," replied George, catching at the excuse as a drown- 
ing man catching at a straw. " That is " — taking out his watch — " I 
have not time now to see him. Tell Lord Averil I am particularly 
engaged." 

Very well, sir." 

Isaac went out with the message, and Lord Averil departed, merely 
saying that he would call again. The reappearance of Charlotte 
Pain's husband could not have brought more dire dismay to that lady, 
than did this reappearance of Lord Averil's at Prior's Ash, bring to 
George Godolphin. 

Did he think Lord Averil would never favour Prior's Ash with his 
presence again? It is hard to say what fooHsh thing he thought. Lord 
Averil had been in town for the last month. Once during that time, 
he had written to have those deposited deeds sent up to him, about 
which he had spoken to Mr. George Godolphin. George had answered 
the letter with some well-framed excuse. But now here was Lord 
Averil again at Prior's Ash — and at the Bank ! Doubtless once more 
in quest of his deeds. 

George Godolphin put his hand to his weary brow. His ever-con- 
stant belief was, that he should get straight in time. In time. To 
his sanguine temperament, time would prove the panacea for all his 
ills. If he could only avert present difficulties, time would do the 
rest. That terrible difficulties were upon him, none knew better than 
he: but the worst difficulty of all would be this of Lord Averil's, 
should exposure come. Short as George was of ready cash — it may 
seem a paradox to say it of a banker, but so it was — he would have 
scraped together every shilling from every available corner and parted 
with it, to have ensured the absence of Lord Averil from Prior's Ash 
for an indefinite period. 

He pressed his hand upon his weary brow, his brain within working 
tumultuously. If he must see Lord Averil — and there could be no 
escape — what should be his plea for the non-production of those deeds? 
It must be a plausible one. His thoughts were interrupted by a rap 
at the door. 

" Come in," cried George, in a sadly hopeless tone. Was it Lord 
Averil again ? 

It was only a note. A three-cornered miniature thing fastened with 
a silver wafer. No business communication that. George knew the 
writing well. 

"Dear Mr. George, 

" Will you ride with me to-day at half-past three instead of 
four ? I will tell you my reason then. Lord A. is back again. 

" Yours, 

" C. P.'^ 

George tore the note into fragments and flung them hito the papef- 



THOSE BONDS AGAIN ! 



241 



basket. It was ten minutes past three. Glad of any excuse to be out 
of business and its cares, he hastened things away in his room, and 
left it. There were moments when George was tempted heartily to 
wish himself out of it for good, safe in some unapproachable island, 
too remote from civihzation to be visited by the world. But he did not 
see his way clear to get there. 

Look at him as he rides through the town, Charlotte by his side, and 
the two grooms behind them ! Look at his fine bay horse, his gentle- 
manly figure ! — look at his laughing blue eyes, his wavy golden hair, 
at the gay smiles on his hps as he turns to Charlotte ! Can you fancy 
an inmate of that man's breast .'^ Prior's Ash did not. They were 
only content to admire and to envy their handsome and most attractive 
banker, George Godolphin. 

They rode by the Bank. It was not often — indeed it was very rarely 
— that they passed it in their rides. There were plenty of other ways, 
without choosing that one. George never would have chosen it : per- 
haps he had the grace to think that his frequent rides with Mrs. 
Charlotte Pain need not be paraded so conspicuously before the 
windows of his wife. Charlotte, however, had a will of her own, and 
sometimes she chose to exercise it. 

As good luck had it, or ill luck, or no luck at all, Maria hap- 
pened to be at the drawing-room window to-day. Some ladies were 
paying her a visit, and Meta — who was sometimes indulged, as an 
only child is indulged — made one in the drawing-room. She caught 
sight of her papa, forthwith climbed upon a chair to see him better, 
and leaned from the open window, clapping her hands. Papa ! 
papa ! " 

Maria sprang to hold her in. She was a child who had little sense 
of danger. Had George held out his arms then, and said, ^'Jump out 
to me, Meta," she would have taken the leap fearlessly. Maria caught 
her round the waist, and the visitors came forward to see. 

Charlotte threw up a triumphant glance. One of those curiously 
triumphant glances that she was rather fond of giving Mrs. George 
Godolphin. Maria bowed gravely. An idea — a faint idea, glancing 
at no ill — had been growing over her lately that her husband passed 
more time with Charlotte Pain than was absolutely necessary. George 
smiled at his wife, lifted his hat to the ladies at her side, and waved a 
kiss to Meta. 

The red blood had mantled to his cheek. At what? At Charlotte's 
triumphantly saucy look — which he had not failed to catch — or at his 
wife's grave one? Or at the sight of a gentleman who stood on the 
pavement, saluting them as they passed? It was the Viscount Averil. 
George saluted again, and rode on with a smooth brow and a face 
bright as day. 

Considerably later ; just before five, in fact, when the Bank closed. 
Lord Averil presented himself at it again. Had Mr. George Godolphin 
returned? If so, could he see him? 

Mr. George had not come in. Mr. Hurde came forward and inquired 
if it was anything that he could do for his lordship. 

Lord Averil had known Mr. Hurde a long while. He had seen him 
in his place there as long as he had banked with Godolphin, Crosse, 

The Shadow of Ashly dyat . 16 



243 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



and Godolphin. He supposed he was a confidential clerk : and, in 
point of fact, Mr. Hurde was so to a great extent. 

" You hold some bonds of mine," said Lord Averil. " Bonds of some 
stock which Sir George Godolphin purchased for me. Did you know 
anything of it?" 

" I remember the transaction quite well, my lord," replied Mr. 
Hurde. 

I want the bonds delivered up to me. Can I have them?" 

" Certainly. Your lordship can have them whenever you please. 
They are in your case, in the strong-room." 

" I should have liked them to-day, if possible," rephed Lord Averil. 

" There will be no difficulty at all, my lord. Mr. George Godolphin 
can deliver them to you as soon as he comes in." 

" Will he be in soon, think you? " 

" He is sure not to be very long, my lord. I have to see him before 
I leave." 

" Then I think I'll wait," said Lord Averil. 

He was shown into the Bank parlour, and left there. At five the 
clerks quitted the Bank : it was usual for them to do so. Mr. Hurde 
waited. In about a quarter of an hour George entered. 

A few minutes given to the business for which Mr. Hurde had 
remained, and then he spoke. " Lord Averil is waiting to see you, sir." 

" Lord Averil? " cried George, in a hasty tone. " Waiting now? " 

" He is in the parlour, sir. He asked if he could have his bonds 
given up to him. I said I thought he could, and he replied that he 
would wait." 

" Then you had no business to say anything of the sort," burst forth 
George, in so vehement a tone as to astonish the sober cashier. " It 
may not be convenient to lay one's hands upon the bonds at a minute's 
notice, Hurde," he more quietly added, as if he would soothe down or 
atone for his anger. 

They are in Lord Averil's box in the strong-room, sir," said the old 
clerk, supposing his master must have temporarily forgotten where the 
said bonds were placed. " Mr. Godolphin was speaking to me about 
those bonds the other day." 

What about them ? " inquired George, striving to put the question 
easily, 

''It was nothing particular, sir. He was only mentioning their in- 
creased value : how they had gone up in the market." 

George said no more. He turned from the office and halted before 
the door of the parlour. Halted to collect his brains. One hand was 
on the handle of the door, the other on his brow. Lord Averil rose, 
and shook hands cordially. 

" I have come to bother you again about my bonds, Mr. George. I 
don't care to keep that stock, and the present is a most favourable 
opportunity to sell." 

" They'll go higher yet," observed George. 

" Will they ? They tell me differently in London. The opinion 
there is, that they will begin to fall." 

'' All rubbish," said George. " A canard got up on the Stock Ex- 
change." 



THOSE BONDS AGAIN ! 



243 



" Well, I have made up my mind to sell," observed Lord Averil. " I 
wrote to you from London to send me the shares up ; but you did not 
seem to be in a hurry to do it. So I have come down for them." 

George laughed. " Come down for nothing but the shares ? But 
you will make some stay here ? " 

" No. I go up again to-morrow. I am not sure whether I shall 
return here for the summer or not. Some friends of mine are going 
over to Canada for three or four months. Perhaps I may accompany 
them." 

George devoutly wished his lordship could be off, there and then ; 
and that the sojourn might last years instead of months. " I wish / 
had the time to go there ! " cried he, aloud : 'M'd start to-morrow." 

" Will it be troubling you to give me the bonds, Mr. George ? " 

George sat a few moments, his head bent as if in thought. " The 
bonds.'*" he slowly said. "Your bonds? They were sent — yes, cer- 
tainly, your bonds were sent to our agents in London." 

" My bonds sent to your agents in London ! " repeated Lord Averil, 
in surprise. " What for ? " 

George coughed. " Some of our deposited deeds are kept there. 
Let me see ? " he continued, again plunging into thought. " Yes — 
yours were amongst those that went up, I remember." 

" But why not have told me this before ? " asked Lord Averil. " Had 
you written me word, it would have saved me the journey down." 

" To be sure," acquiesced George. " To tell you the truth, I never 
thought much about it, or where they were, until now." 

" Mr. Hurde told me they were here," said Lord Averil. 

" No doubt he thought so. They were here until recently." 

" I shall have my journey back again, then ! " cried his lordship. 
" Will the town bankers give them up to me on my simple demand, or 
must they have your authority ? " 

" I will write to them," responded George. 

The viscount rose. Not a shade of suspicion had crossed his mind. 
But he could not help thinking that he should have made a better man 
of business than handsome George. " I wish you had told me ! " he 
involuntarily repeated. " But I suppose," he good-naturedly added, 
" that my poor bonds are too insignificant to have much place in the 
thoughts of a man surrounded by hundreds of thousands." 

George laughed. He was walking with Lord Averil to the front door. 
They stood together when it was reached, the street before them. 
Lord Averil asked after Mr. Godolphin. 

" He seems a little better," rephed George. " Certainly no worse." 

" I am glad to hear it. Very glad indeed. You will not forget to 
write to town, Mr. George ? " 

" All right," rephed George Godolphin, 



244 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



CHAPTER XII. 

'^I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 

The light of the setting sun streamed upon the fair hair of Cecil 
Godolphin. She had strolled out from the dining-room to enjoy the 
beauty of the late spring evening, or to indulge her own thoughts, as 
might be. To the confines of the grounds strayed she, as far as those 
surrounding Lady Godolphin's Folly; and there she sat down on a 
garden bench. 

Not to remain long alone. She was interrupted by the very man 
upon whom — if the disclosure must be made — her evening thoughts 
had centred. He was coming up with a quick step on the road from 
Prior's Ash. Seeing Cecil, he turned off to accost her, his heart 
beating. 

Beating with the shght ascent, or with the sight of Cecil? He best 
knew. Many a man's heart has beaten at a less lovely vision. She 
wore her favourite attire, white, set off with blue ribbons, and her 
golden hair gleamed in the sunlight. She almost exclaimed with sur- 
prise. She had been thinking of him, it is true, but as one who was 
miles and miles away. In spite of his stormy and not long-past rejec- 
tion. Lord Averil went straight up to her and held out his hand. Did 
he notice that her blue eyes dropped beneath his, as she rose to answer 
his greeting ; that the soft colour on her cheeks changed to a glowing 
damask? 

" I fear I have surprised you," said Lord Averil. 

" A little," acknowledged Cecil. " I did not know you were at Prior's 
Ash. Thomas will be glad to see you." 

She turned to walk with him to the house, as in courtesy bound. 
Lord Averil offered her his arm, and Cecil condescended to put the tips 
of her fingers within it. Neither broke the silence ; perhaps neither 
could break it ; and they reached the large porch of Ashlydyat. Cecil 
spoke then. 

" Are you going to make a long stay in the country ? " 

" A very short one. A party of friends are departing for Canada, 
and they wish me to make one of them. I think I shall do so." 

" To Canada ! " echoed Cecil. " So far away ! " 

Lord Averil smiled. "It sounds farther than it really is. I am an 
old traveller, you know." 

Cecil opened the dining-room door. Thomas was alone. He had 
left the table, and was seated in his armchair at the window. A glad 
smile illumined his face when he -saw Lord Averil. Lord Averil was 
one of the very few of whom Thomas Godolphin could make a close 
friend. These close friends! Not above one, or two, can we meet 
with in a lifetime. Acquaintances many ; but friends — those to whom 
the heart can speak out its inmost thoughts, who may be as our own 
soul — how few ! 

Cecil left them alone. She ran off to tell Janet that Lord Averil 



SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 245 



had come, and would perhaps take tea with them, were he invited to 
do so. Thomas, with more hospitable ideas, was pressing dinner upon 
him. It could be brought back at once. 

" I have dined at the Bell," replied Lord Averil. " Not any, thank 
you," he added, as Thomas was turning to the wine. " I have taken 
all I require." 

" Have you come to make a long stay ? " inquired Thomas — as Cecil 
had done. 

" I shall go back to town to-morrow. Having nothing to do with 
myself this evening, I thought I could not spend it better than with 
you. I am pleased to see that you are looking yourself." 

" The warm weather seems to be doing me good," was Thomas Go- 
dolphin's reply, a consciousness within him how little better he really 
was. " Why are you making so short a stay ? " 

" Well, as it turns out, my journey has been a superfluous one. 
Those bonds that you hold of mine brought me down," continued Lord 
Averil, little thinking that he was doing mischief by mentioning the 
subject to Mr. Godolphin. " I am going to sell out, and came down 
to get them." 

Why did you not write ? " said Thomas. " We could have sent 
them to you." 

" I did write, a week or ten days ago, and your brother wrote me 
word in answer that the bonds should be sent— or something to that 
effect. But they never came. Having nothing much to do, I thought 
I would run down for them. I also wanted to see Max. But he is 
away." 

" I believe he is," replied Thomas. " Have you got the bonds ? " 

" It has proved a useless journey, I say," replied Lord Averil. " The 
bonds, I find, are in town, at your agents'." 

Thomas Godolphin looked up with surprise. " They are not in 
town," he said. " What should bring them in town ? Who told you 
that?" 

" Your brother George." 

" George told you the bonds were in town ? " repeated Thomas, as if 
he could not believe his ears. 

" He did indeed : not three hours ago. Why ? Are they not in 
town?" 

" Most certainly not. The bonds are in our strong-room, where they 
were first deposited. They have never been moved from it. What 
could George have been thinking of " 

"To tell you the truth, I did not fancy he appeared over-certain 
himself, where they were, whether here or in town," said Lord Averil. 
" At length he remembered that they were in town : he said they had 
gone up with other deeds." 

"He makes a mistake," said Thomas. " He must be confounding 
your bonds with some that we sent up the other day of Lord Cave- 
more's. And yet, I wonder that he should do so ! Lord Cavemore's 
went up for a particular purpose, and George himself took the instruc- 
tions. Lord Cavemore consulted him upon the business altogether." 

"Then — if my bonds are here — can I have them at once?" asked 
Lord Averil. 



246 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" You can have them the instant the Bank opens to-morrow morn- 
ing. In fact, you might have them to-night if George should happen 
to be at home. I am sorry you should have had any trouble about it." 

Lord Averil smiled. ^' Speaking frankly, I do not fancy George is so 
much a man of business as you are. When I first asked for the bonds, 
nearly a month ago, he appeared to be quite at sea about them ; not to 
know what I meant, or to remember that you held bonds of mine." 

" Did you ask for the bonds a month ago ? " exclaimed Thomas. 

"About that time. It was when you were in London. George at 
last remembered." 

" Did he not give them to you ? " 

" No. He said I almost forget what he said. That he did not 

know where to put his hands upon them, I think, in your absence." 

Thomas felt vexed. He wondered what could have possessed George 
to behave in so unbusiness-like a way : or how it was possible for 
him to have blundered so about the bonds. But he would not blame 
his brother to Lord Averil. "You shall have the bonds the first 
thing in the morning," he said. " I will drop a note to George, re- 
minding him where they are, in case I am not at the Bank early 
enough for you." 

Unusually well felt Thomas Godolphin that evening. He proceeded 
with Lord Averil to the drawing-room to his sisters ; and a very plea- 
sant hour or two they all spent together. Bessy laughed at Lord Averil 
a great deal about his proposed Canadian expedition, telling him she 
did not believe he seriously entertained it. 

It was a genial night, soft, warm, and lovely, the moon bright again. 
The church clocks at Prior's Ash were striking ten when Lord Averil 
rose to leave Ashlydyat. " If you will wait two minutes for me, I will 
go a little way with you," said Thomas Godolphin. 

He withdrew to another room, penned a line, and despatched it by a 
servant to the Bank. Then he rejoined Lord Averil, passed his arm 
within his lordship's, and went out with him. 

"Is this Canada project a joke ? " asked he. 

" Indeed, no. I have not quite made up my mind to go. I think I 
shall do so. If so, I shall be away in a week from this. Why should 
I not go ? I have no settled home, no ties." 

" Should you not — I beg your pardon, Averil — be the happier for a 
settled home ? You might form ties. I think a roving life must be the 
least desirable one of all." 

" It is one I was never fitted for. My inclination would lead me to 
home, to domestic happiness. But, as you know, I put that out of my 
power." 

" For a time. But that is over. You might marry again." 

" I do not suppose I ever shall," returned Lord Averil, feeling half 
prompted to tell his unsuspicious friend that his own sister was the 
barrier to his doing so. " Vou have never married," he resumed, 
allowing the impulse to die away. 

Thomas Godolphin shook his head. " The cases are different," he 
said. "In your wife you lost one whom you could not regret " 

" Don't call her by that name, Godolphin ! " burst forth Lord 
Averil. 



«I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN. IT." 247 



" And in Ethel I lost one who was all the world to me ; who could 
never be replaced," Thomas went on, after a pause, The cases are 
widely different." 

" Ay, widely different," assented Lord Averil. 

They walked on in silence, each buried in his own thoughts. At the 
commencement of the road, Lord Averil stopped and took Thomas 
Godolphin's hand in his. 

" You shall not come any farther with me." 

Thomas stopped also. He had not intended to go farther. "You 
will really start for Canada ? " 
I beheve I shall." 

"Take my blessing with you then, Averil. We may never meet 
again in this world." 

" What ? " exclaimed Lord Averil. 

" The medical men entertain hopes that my life may not be ter- 
minated so speedily : / believe that a few months will end it. I may 
not live to welcome you home." 

It was the first intimation Lord Averil had received of Thomas 
Godolphin's fatal malady. Thomas explained it to him. He was 
overwhelmed. 

" Oh, my friend ! my friend ! Cannot death be defied, or coaxed to 
spare you ? " he called out in his pain. How many have vainly echoed 
the same cry ! 

A few more words, a long grasp of the lingering hands, and they 
parted. Thomas with a God-speed ; Lord Averil with a different 
prayer — a God-save — upon his lips. The peer turned to Prior's Ash ; 
Thomas Godolphin towards home. 

Not by the path he had come. He had brought Lord Averil down 
the broad entrance to Ashlydyat : he turned to go round the path by 
the ash-trees in front of the Dark Plain. Possibly he had a mind to 
see whether the Shadow was abroad to-night. 

Before he had well turned the corner of the trees, or had given more 
than a glance to the black Shadow — for there it was — he heard hasty 
footsteps behind him. Looking round, he beheld Lord Averil. Softened 
by the parting, by the tidings he had heard, an impulse had taken 
Lord Averil that he would speak of Cecil : and he turned back to do so. 

" Godolphin, I What's that ? " 

The great black Shadow, stretching out there in the distance, had 
attracted the attention of Lord Averil. He stood with his forefinger 
extended, pointed towards it. 

"That is what they call the Shadow of Ashlydyat," quietly rephed 
Thomas Godolphin. 

Lord Averil had never before seen it. He had heard enough of it. 
Attentively regarding it, he did not for some time speak. 

"Do you beheve in it ? " he asked at length. 

" Beheve in it ? " repeated Thomas Godolphin. " I beheve that a 
Shadow does appear there on occasions. I cannot beheve otherwise, 
with that ocular demonstration before me." 

" And how do you account for it ? " asked Lord Averil. 

" I have been all my hfe trying to do so. And have come to the 
conclusion that it is not to be accounted for." 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



" But I have always treated the report as the most perfect folly," 
rejoined Lord Averil. 

"Ay. No doubt. As I should do but for thaf'' — and Thomas Go- 
dolphin nodded towards the Shadow, on which the peer's eyes were 
fixed with an intense gaze. " You and I are rational beings, Averil, 
not likely to be led away by superstitious folly ; we live in an en- 
lightened age, little tolerant of such things. And yet, here we stand, 
gazing with dispassionate eyes on that Shadow, in full possession of 
our sober judgment. It is there ; we see it : and that is all we can tell 
about it. The Shadow of Ashlydyat is ridiculed from one end of the 
county to the other : spoken of— when spoken of at all — as an absurd 
superstition of the Godolphins. But there the Shadow is : and not all 
the ridicule extant can do away with the plain fact. I see it : but I 
cannot explain it." 

" What do you do about it ? " 

Lord Averil asked the question in his bewilderment. A smile crossed 
Thomas Godolphin's lips as he answered. 

"We do nothing. We can do nothing. We cannot prevent its 
coming; we cannot send it away when it comes ; we cannot bring it if 
it does not come of its own accord. If I reason about it for a month, 
Averil, I could give you no better explanation than this." 

Lord Averil drew a deep breath, as one awaking from a reverie. 
As Thomas Godolphin said : there was the Shadow, visible to his eyes, 
his senses : but of explanation as to its cause, there was none. The 
little episode had driven away the impulse to speak of Cecil : and, after 
another hand pressure, he finally turned away, and pursued his walk to 
Prior's Ash. 

Another was also pursuing his walk to Prior's Ash ; indeed, had 
nearly gained it : and that was Thomas Godolphin's messenger. Ap- 
proaching the Bank residence, he distinguished some one standing at 
the entrance, and found that it was Mr. George Godolphin. 

" What's this ? " asked George. " A letter ? " 

" My master sent me down with it, sir." 

George turned it about in his hand. " Does it require an answer, do 
you know, Andrew ? " 

" No, sir. My master said I need not wait." 

The man departed, and George carried the note into the dining- 
room. Maria sat there reading, underneath the chandelier. She 
looked pleased to see her husband, and closed the book. George had 
been out all the evening. He stood opposite to Maria, and tore the 
note open. 

"Dear George, 

" Lord Averil's bonds are in his case in the strong-room. How 
could you make so great a mistake as to tell him they had gone up to 
town ? I send you word, lest he should call for them in the morning 
before I reach the Bank. 

" Ever yours, 

"Thomas Godolphin." 

Then the disclosure must come! With a word, that was very 



^'I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 249 

like a groan, George crushed the paper in his hand. Maria heard 
the sound. 

What is it, George ? " 

" Nothing. What ? This ? Only a note from Thomas." 

He began whistling lightly, to cover his real feelings, and took up the 
book Maria had closed. " Is it entertaining? " asked he, turning over 
its pages. 

" Very. It is a charming book. But that I had it to read, I should 
have been lying on the sofa. I have a very bad headache to-night." 
" Go to bed," responded George. 

" I think I must. Perhaps you will not care to come so early ? " 
" Never mind me. I have an hour or two's work to do in the Bank 
to-night." 

" Oh, George ! " 

" My dear, it need not keep you up." 

" George, I cannot //u'nk how it is that you have night-work to do ! " 
she impulsively exclaimed, after a pause. " I am sure Thomas would 
not wish you to do it. I think I shall ask him." 

George turned round and grasped her shoulder, quite sharply. 
Maria! " 

His grasp, I say, was sharp, his look and voice were imperatively 
stern. Maria felt frightened : she scarcely knew why. " What have 
I done ? " she asked, timidly. 

" Understand me, please, once for all. What I choose to do, does 
not regard my brother Thomas. I will have no tales carried to him." 

" Why do you mistake me so ? " she answered, when she had a little 
recovered her surprise. " It cannot be well for you, or pleasant for you, 
to have so much work to do at night, and I thought Thomas would 
have told you not to do it. Tales ! George, you know I should never 
tell them of you." 

" No, no ; I know you would not, Maria. I have been idle of late, 
and am getting up my work ; that's all : but it would not do to let 
Thomas know it. You — you don't tell Isaac that I sit up at the books?" 
he cried, almost in an accent of terror. 

She looked up at him wonderingly, through her wet eyelashes. 
Surely, no ! Should I be likely to speak to Isaac of what you do ? or 
to any one ? 

George folded her in his arms, kissing the tears from her face. " Go 
to bed at once, darling, and sleep your headache off," he fondly whispered. 
I shall be up soon ; as soon as I can." 

He lighted her candle and gave it to her. As Maria took it, she 
remembered something she wished to say to him. " When will it be 
convenient to you to give me some money, George ? " 

''What for?" 

" Oh, you know. For housekeeping. The bills are getting so heavy, 
and the tradespeople are beginning to ask for their money. The 
servants want their wages, too. Would it not be better to pay regularly, 
as we used to do, instead of letting things run on so long ? " 

"Ay. I'll see about it," rephed George. 

George had got into the habit of giving the same answer, when asked 
by his wife for money. She had asked several times lately : but all the 



250 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



satisfaction she received was, " Til see about it." Not a suspicion thai 
his means were running short ever crossed her brain. 

She went upstairs and retired to rest, soon falhng asleep. Her head 
was heavy. The household went to bed ; George shut himself into the 
Bank — according to his recent custom ; and the house was soon wrapped 
in quiet — as a sober house should be. 

Two o'clock was striking from All Souls' clock when Maria awoke. 
Why should she have done so ? — there was no noise to startle her. All 
she knew — and it is all that a great many of us know — was, that she 
did awake. 

To her astonishment, George was not in bed. Two o'clock ! — and 
he had said that he should soon follow her ! A vague feeling of alarm 
stole over Maria. 

All sorts of improbable suggestions crowded on her imagination. 
Imaginations, you know, are more fantastic in the dark, still night, than 
in the busy day. Had he been taken ill ? Had he fallen asleep at his 
work ? Could he — could he have set the books and himself on fire ? 
Had a crown been offered to Maria, she could not have remained tran- 
quil a moment longer. 

Slightly dressing herself, she threw on a warm dressing-gown, and 
stole down the stairs. Passing through the door that divided the 
dwelling from the Bank, she softly turned the handle of George's room, 
and opened it. Secure in the house being at rest, he had not locked 
the doors against interruption. 

The tables seemed strewed with books, but George was not then 
occupied with them. He was sitting in a chair apart, buried, as it 
appeared — in thought, his hands and his head alike drooping listlessly. 
He started up at Maria's entrance. 

" I grew alarmed, George," she said, trying to explain her appearance. 
" I awoke suddenly, and finding you had not come up, I grew frightened, 
thinking you might be ill. It is two o'clock ! " 

" What made you come down out of your warm bed ? " reiterated 
George. " You'll catch your death." 

" I was frightened, I say. Will you not come up now ? " 

" I am coming directly," replied George. ^' Go back at once. You'll 
be sure to take cold." 

Maria turned to obey. Somehow the dark passages struck on her 
with a nervous dread. She shrank into the room again. 

" I don't care to go up alone," she cried. I have no light." 

" How foolish ! " he exclaimed. I declare Meta would be braver ! " 

Some nervous feeling did certainly appear to be upon her, for she 
burst into tears. George's tone — a tone of irritation, it had been —was 
exchanged for one of soothing tenderness, as he bent over her. What 
is the matter with you to-night, Maria? I'll light you up." 

" I don't know what is the matter with me," she answered, sup- 
pressing her sobs. " I have not felt in good spirits of late. George, 
sometimes I think you are not well. You are a great deal changed 
in your manner to me. Have I — have I displeased you in any way?" 

" Vou displeased me! No, my darling." 

He spoke with impulsive fondness. Well had it been for George 
Godolphin had no heavier care been upon him than any little displeasure 



"I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 251 



his wife could give him. The thought occurred to him with strange 
bitterness. 

" I'll light you up, Maria," he repeated. " I shall not be long after you." 

And, taking the heavy lamp from the table, he carried it to the outer 
passage, and held it while she went up the stairs. Then he returned to 
the room and to his work — whatever that work might be. 

Vain work ! vain, delusive, useless work ! As you will soon find, Mr. 
George Godolphin. 

Morning came. Whether gnawing care or hopeful joy may lie in the 
heart's inner dwelling-place, people generally meet at their breakfast- 
tables as usual. 

George Godolphin sat at breakfast with his wife. Maria was in high 
spirits : her indisposition of the previous evening had passed away. She 
was telling George an anecdote of Meta, as she poured out the coffee, 
some little ruse the young lady had exercised, to come over Margery ; 
and Maria laughed heartily as she told it. George laughed in echo : 
as merrily as his wife. There must have been two George Godolphins 
surely at that moment ! The outer, presented to the world, gay, smiling, 
and careless ; the inner, kept for his own private and especial delecta- 
tion, grim, dark, and ghastly. 

Breakfast was nearly over, when there was heard a clattering of little 
feet, the door burst open, and Miss Meta appeared in a triumphant 
shout of laughter. She had eluded Margery's vigilance, and eloped from 
the nursery. Margery speedily followed, scolding loudly, her hands 
stretched forth to seize the runaway. But Meta had bounded to her 
papa, and found a refuge. 

George caught her up on his knee : his hair — the same shade once, 
but somewhat darker now — mixing with the light golden locks of the 
child, as he took from her kiss after kiss. To say that George Godolphin 
was passionately fond of his child would not be speaking too strongly : 
few fathers can love a child more ardently than George loved Meta. 
A pretty little lovable thing she was ! Look at her on George's knee ! 
her dainty white frock, its sleeves tied up with blue, her pretty socks 
and shoes, her sunny face, surrounded by its shower of curls. Margery 
scolded in the doorway, but Miss Meta, little heeding, was casting her 
inquisitive eyes on the breakfast-table, to see what there might be 
especially nice upon it. 

"If you'd just please to punish her once for it, sir, she wouldn't do it, 
maybe, in future ! " grumbled Margery. " Naughty girl ! " 

" I think I must," said George. " Shall I whip you, Meta ? " 

Meta shouted out a joyous little laugh in answer, turned her face 
round, and clung to him lovingly. She knew what his " whippings " 
meant. 

" But if Margery says so ? " 

" Margery nobody," responded Meta, bustling her face round to the 
table again. " Mamma, may I have some of that ? " 

Maria hesitated. " That " was some tempting-looking breakfast-dish, 
very good, no doubt, for George, but very rich for Meta. George, how- 
ever, drew it towards him, and cut her a little, claiming for his reward 
as many kisses as Meta's impatience would accord him. Margery went 
off in a temper. 



25^ 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



' " No wonder the child despises her bread and milk in the morning ! 
If I had fed you upon those spiced things, Mr. George, when you were 
a child, I wonder whether you'd have grown into the strong man you 
are ! " 

" Into a stronger," called out George. He as much liked to give a 
word of teasing now and then to Margery as he had in the old days she 
referred to. Margery retorted with some answer, which he did not hear, 
and George laughed. Laughed loud and merrily, and again bent his 
face to Meta's. 

But he could not remain all day long in that scene of peace. Oh, if 
we only could ! those who have to go out to battle with the daily world. 
If there were only a means of closing the door on the woes that turn a 
man's hair white before its time ! 

George took Meta a triumphal ride round the room on his shoulder, 
and then, having extorted his payment, put her down by Maria. Going 
into the Bank to his day's work. His day's work ! rather an embar- 
rassing one, that day, Mr. George Godolphin ! 

Taking the keys of the strong-room from the cupboard, also certain 
other keys, as he had done once before within the knowledge of the 
reader, he proceeded to the strong-room, opened a certain safe in it, 
and took out the box inscribed Lord Averil." This he also opened, 
and examined its contents. Mr. George Godolphin was searching for 
certain bonds : or, making believe to search for them. Having satisfied 
himself that they were not there, he returned the box to its place, made 
all safe again, went back, and sat down to open the morning letters. 
Presently he called to a clerk. 

" Has Mr. Hurde come ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Desire him to step here." 

The old clerk came, in obedience to the summons, taking off his 
spectacles as he entered to rub one of their glasses, which had got 
misty. George leaned his elbow on the table, and, resting his chin upon 
his hand, looked him full in the face. 

" Hurde," said he, plunging midway into his communication, which 
he made in a lone tone, ^' those bonds of Lord Averil's are missing." 

The clerk paused, as if scarcely understanding. " How do you 
mean, sir ? Missing in what way ? " 

" I can't find them," replied George. 

"They are in Lord Averil's box in the strong-room, sir, with his 
other papers." 

" But they are not there," replied George. " I have searched the 
papers through this morning. Hurde, we have had some roguery at 
work." 

Another pause, devoted by Mr. Hurde to revolving the communica- 
tion. " Roguery ! " he slowly repeated. " Have you missed anything 
else, Mr. George ? " 

No. I have not looked." 

" Oh, sir, there's no fear of anything being wrong," resumed the old 
clerk, his good sense repudiating the notion. " Mr. Godolphin must 
have moved them." 

" That's just what I thought until last night," said George. " The 



^'I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 253 

fact is, Lord Averil asked me for these bonds some little time ago, 
while my brother was in London. I opened the box, and, not seeing 
them there, came to the conclusion that Mr. Godolphin had moved 
them. Lord Averil said it was of no consequence then, and departed 
for London : and the thing slipped from my memory. When you 
spoke to me about it last evening, of course I felt vexed to have for- 
gotten it, and I put off Lord Averil with the best excuse I could." 

" And has Mr. Godolphin not moved them, sir ? " demanded the 
clerk. 

" It appears not. He dropped me a line last night, saying I should 
find the bonds in their place in the box. I suppose Lord Averil was 
up at Ashlydyat and mentioned it. But I can't find them in the 
box." 

" Sir, you know you are not a very good searcher," observed Mr. 
Hurde, after some consideration. " Once or twice that you have 
searched for deeds, Mr. Godolphin has found them afterwards, over- 
looked by you. Shall I go carefully over the box, sir? I think they 
must be in it." 

" I tell you, Hurde, they are not." 

He spoke somewhat fractiously. Fully aware that he had occasion- 
ally overlooked deeds, in his haste or carelessness, perhaps the con- 
trast between those times and these, gave a sting to his manner. 
Then^ whether the deeds had been found or not, he was innocent ; 
now 

" But, if they are not in the box, where can they be ? " resumed Mr. 
Hurde. 

" There it is," said George. " Where can they be 1 I say, Hurde, 
that some light fingers must have been at work." 

Mr. Hurde considered the point in his mind. It seemed that he 
could not adopt the conclusion readily. " I should think not, sir. If 
nothing else is missing, I should say certainly not." 

" They are missing, at any rate," returned George. " It will put Mr. 
Godolphin out terribly. I wish there had been any means of keeping 
it from him : but, now that Lord Averil has mentioned the bonds to 
him, there are none. I shall get the blame. He will think I have not 
kept the keys securely." 

" But you have, sir, have you not " 

" For all I know I have," repHed George, assuming a carelessness as 
to the point, of which he had not been guilty. " Allowing that I had 
not, for argument's sake, what dishonest person can we have about us, 
Hyrde, who would use the advantage to his own profit?" 

Mr. Hurde began calling over the list of clerks, preparatory to con- 
sidering whether any one of them could be considered in the least 
degree doubtful. He was engaged in this mental process, when a 
clerk interrupted them, to say that a gentleman was asking to see Mr. 
George Godolphin. 

George looked up sharply. The applicant, however, was not Lord 
Averil, and any one else would be more tolerable to him on that day 
than his lordship; Mr. Godolphin, perhaps, excepted. As the old 
clerk was withdrawing to give place to the visitor, George caught sight, 
through the open door, of Mr. Godolphin entering the office. An im- 



2S4 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



pulse to throw the disclosure off his own shoulders, prompted him to 
hasten after Mr. Hurde. 

" Hurde," he whispered, catching his arm, " you may as well make 
the communication to Mr. Godolphin. He ought to know it at once, 
and I may be engaged some time." 

So George remained shut up, and the old clerk followed Thomas 
Godolphin to his private room. Mr. Godolphin felt well that morning, 
and had come unusually early : possibly lest there should be any 
further blundering over Lord AveriPs bonds. He looked somewhat 
surprised to see the old clerk approaching him with a long face and 
mysterious look. 

"Do you want me, Hurde ? " 

" Mr. George has desired me to speak to you, sir, about those bonds 
of Lord Averil's. To make an unpleasant communication, in fact. 
He is engaged himself, just now. He says he can't find them." 

" They are in the strong-room, in Lord Averil's case," replied Mr. 
Godolphin. 

He says they are not there, sir : that he can't find them." 

" But they are there," returned Thomas. " They have not been 
moved out of the box since they were first placed in it. " 

He spoke quietly as he ever did, but very firmly, almost as if he were 
disputing the point, or had been prepared to dispute it. Mr. Hurde 
resumed after some deliberation : he was a deliberate man always, both 
in temperament and in speech. 

" What Mr. George says, is this, sir : That when you were in London 
Lord Averil asked for -his bonds. Mr. George looked for them, and 
found they were not in the box ; and he came to the conclusion that 
you had moved them. The affair escaped his memory, he says, until 
last night, when he was asked for them again. He has been searching 
the box this morning, but cannot find the bonds in it." 

" They must be there," observed Thomas Godolphin. "If George 
has not moved them, I have not. He has a knack of overlooking 
things." 

" I said so to him, sir, just now. He " 

"Do you say he is engaged ? " interrupted Thomas Godolphin. 

" The secretary of the railway company is with him, sir. I suppose 
he has come about that loan. I think the bonds can't be anywhere 
but in the box, sir. I told Mr. George so." 

" Let me know when he is disengaged," said Thomas Godolphin. 
And Mr. Hurde went out. 

George Godolphin was disengaged then. Mr. Hurde saw the gentle- 
man, whom he had called the railway company's secretary, departing. 
The next minute George Godolphin came out of his room. 

" Have you mentioned that to my brother ? " he asked of Hurde. 

" I have, sir. Mr. Godolphin thinks that you must be mistaken. 

George went in to his brother, shook hands, and said he was glad to 
see him so early. " It is a strange thing about these bonds," he con- 
tinued, without giving Thomas time to speak. 

" You have overlooked them," said Thomas. " Bring me the keys, 
and I will go and get them." 

" I assure you they are not there. 



"I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 255 



" They must be there, George. Bring me the keys." 

George Godolphin produced the key of the strong-room, and of the 
safe, and Lord Averil's box was examined by Thomas Godolphin. The 
bonds in question were not in it : and Thomas, had he missed himself, 
could scarcely have been more completely astonished. 

" George, you must have moved them," were the first words he 
spoke. 

" Not I," said George, lightly. " Where should I move them to ? " 

" But no one has power to get into that room, or to penetrate to the 
safe and the box after it, except you and myself," urged Mr. Godolphin. 
" Unless, indeed, you have allowed the keys to stray from your keeping." 

" I have not done that," answered George. This seems to be per- 
fectly unaccountable." 

" How came you to tell Averil last night that the bonds had gone to 
London ? " 

" Well, the fact is, I did not know what to tell him," replied George. 
" When I first missed the bonds, when you were in London " 

" Why did you not let me know then that they were missing ? " was 
the interruption. 

" I forgot it when you returned home." 

" But you should not have allowed yourself the possibility of for- 
getting a thing like that," remonstrated Thomas. Upon missing 
deeds of that value, or in fact of any value however slight, you should 
have communicated with me the very same hour. George," he added, 
after a pause, which George did not break : " I cannot understand how 
it was that you did not see the necessity of it yourself." 

George Godolphin was running his hand through his hair — in an 
absent manner, lost in thought; in — as might be conjectured — con- 
templation of the past time referred to. " How was I to think any- 
thing but that you had moved the deeds?" he said. 

" At all events, you should have ascertained. Why, George, were I 
to miss deeds that I believed to be in a given place, I could not rest a 
night without inquiring after them. I might assume — and there might 
be every probabiHty for it — that you had moved them ; but my sleep 
would be ruined until I ascertained the fact." 

George made no reply. I wonder where he was wishing himself? 
Mr. Godolphin resumed. 

"In this instance, I do not see how you could have come to the con- 
clusion that I had touched the bonds. Where did you think I was 
likely to move them to ? " 

George could not tell — and said so. It was not impossible, but 
Thomas might have sent them to town — or have handed them back to 
Lord Averil, he continued to murmur, in a somewhat confused manner. 
Thomas looked at him : he could scarcely make him out, but supposed 
the loss had affected his equanimity. 

" Had you regarded it dispassionately, George, I think you would 
have seen it in a more serious light. I should not be likely to move 
the bonds to a different place of keeping, without your cognizance : and 
as to returning them to Lord Averil, the transaction would have appeared 
in the bpoks." 

I am sorry I forgot to mention it to you," said George. 



256 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



That you could have forgotten it, and continued to forget it until 
now, passes all belief. Has there never been a moment at any time, 
George, in this last month that it has recurred to your memory ? " 

" Well, perhaps there may have been ; just a casual thought," ac- 
knowledged George. I can't be sure." 

" And yet you did not speak to me ? " 

"In your present state of health, I was willing to spare you unneces- 
sary anxiety " 

" Stay, George. If you really assumed that I had moved the deeds, 
asking me the question could not have been productive of anxiety. 
If any fear, such as that the deeds were missing without my agency, 
only crossed your mind as a suggestion, it was your bounden duty to 
acquaint me with it." 

" I wish I could have dealt with the matter now without acquainting 
you," returned George. Did not the London doctors warn you that 
repose of mind was essential to you ? " 

" George," was the impressive answer, and Thomas had his hand 
upon his brother's arm as he spoke it, " so long as I pretend to transact 
business, to come to this Bank, and sit here, its master, so long do I 
desire and request to be considered equal to discharging its duties 
efficiently. When I can no longer do that, I will withdraw from it. 
Never again suffer my state of health to be a plea for keeping matters 
from me, however annoying or complicated they may be." 

Thomas Godolphin spent half that day in looking into other strong 
boxes, lest perchance the missing deeds should have got into any — 
though he did not see how that could be. They could not be found ; 
but, neither did any other paper of consequence, so far as could be dis- 
covered, appear to have gone. Thomas could not account for the loss 
in any way, or conjecture why it should have occurred, or who had 
taken the bonds. It was made known in the Bank that a packet of 
deeds was missing ; but full particulars were not given. 

There was no certain data to go upon as to the time of the loss. 
George Godolphin stated that he had missed them a month ago ; 
Thomas, when visiting Lord Averil's box for some purpose about four 
months ago, had seen the deeds there, secure. They must have dis- 
appeared between those periods. The mystery was — how ? The clerks 
could not get to the strong-room and to the safes and cases in it, 
unless by some strange accident ; by some most unaccountable neglect. 
Very great neglect it would have been, to allow them the opportunity 
of getting to one key; but to obtain three or four, as was neces- 
sary before those deeds could have been taken, and to obtain them 
undiscovered, was next door to an impossibility. The internal arrange- 
ments in the house of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin were of a 
stringent nature : Sir George Godolphin had been a most particular 
man in business. Conjecture upon conjecture was hazarded : theory 
after theory discussed. When Mr. Hurde found the deeds were really 
gone, his amazement was excessive, his trouble great. George, as 
soon as he could, stole away f^-om the discussion. He had got over 
his part, better perhaps than ne had expected : all that remained now, 
was to make the best of cJie loss — and to institute a search for the 
deeds. 



"I SEE IT: BUT I CANNOT EXPLAIN IT." 



257 



" I can't call to mind a single one of them who would do it, or be 
hkely to do it," remarked Mr. Hurde to his master. 
" Of whom ? " 

" Of the clerks in the house, sir. But, one of them, it must have 
been." 

"A stranger it could not have been," replied Thomas Godolphin. 
"Had a midnight plunderer got into the Bank, he would not have con- 
tented himself with one packet of deeds." 

"Whoever took them, sir, took them to make money upon them. 
There's not a doubt of that. I wonder — I wonder " 

" What ? " asked Mr. Godolphin. 

" I wonder — I have often wondered, sir — whether Lay ton does not 
live above his income. If so — — " 

" Hurde," said Thomas Godolphin gravely, " I believe Lay ton to be 
as honest as you or I." 

" Well — I have always thought him so, or I should pretty soon have 
spoken. But, sir, the deeds must have gone somehow, by somebody's 
hands : and Layton is the least ^//^likely of all. I see him on a Sunday 
driving his new wife out in a gig. She plays the piano, too ! " 

How these items in the domestic economy of the clerk, Layton, could 
bear upon the loss of the deeds, especially the latter item, Mr. Hurde 
did not further explain. He was of the old school, seeing no good in 
gigs, still less in pianos ; and he determined to look a little after Mr. 
Layton. 

Thomas Godolphin, straightforward and honourable, imparted to 
Lord Averil the fact of the deeds being missing. Whether he would 
have revealed it to a less intimate client at this early stage of the affair, 
might be a matter of speculation. The house would not yet call them 
lost, he said to Lord Averil : it trusted, by some fortunate accident, to 
put its hands upon them, in some remote pigeon-hole. Lord Averil 
received the communication with courteous friendliness : he thought 
it must prove that they had only been mislaid, and he hoped they 
would be found. Both gentlemen hoped that sincerely. The value of 
the deeds was about sixteen thousand pounds : too much for either of 
them to lose with equanimity. 

" George must have known of this when I asked him for the deeds 
a month ago," observed Lord Averil. 

" I think not," rephed Thomas Godolphin. " It was your asking for 
the deeds which caused him to search the box for them, and he then 
found they were gone." 

"Perhaps you are right. But I remember thinking his manner 
peculiar." 

"How ' peculiar ' 1 " inquired Thomas. 

" Hesitating : uncertain. He appeared, at first, not to know what I 
meant in asking for the deeds. Since you spoke to me of the loss, it 
struck me as accounting for George's manner — that he did not like to 
tell me of it." 

" He could not have known of it then," repeated Thomas Godolphin. 

As this concluding part of the conversation took place, they were 
coming out of the room. Isaac Hastings was passing along the passage, > 
and heard a portion of it. 

The Shadow Qf Aghlydy at. 1 7 



258 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Are they deeds of Lord AveriPs that are missing ? " he inquired con- 
fidentially of Mr. Hurde, later in the day. 

The old clerk nodded an affirmative. " But you need not proclaim it 
there," he added, by way of caution, glancing sideways at the clerks. 

^^Do you suppose I should do so?" returned Isaac Hastings. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

A RED-LETTER DAY FOR MRS. BOND. 

The scent of the new-mown hay was in the atmosphere around Prior's 
Ash. A backward spring it had been until the middle of April, and 
wiseacres said the crops would be late. But then the weather had 
suddenly burst into the warmth of summer, vegetation came on all the 
more rapidly for its previous tardiness, and the crops turned out to be 
early, instead of late. 

Never a more lovely day gladdened the world than that particular day 
in June. Maria Godolphin, holding Miss Meta by the hand, walked 
along under the shady field-hedge, all glorious with its clusters of wild 
roses. The field was covered with hay, now being piled into cocks by 
the haymakers, and Meta darted ever and anon from her mother's side, 
to afford the valuable aid of her tiny hands. Meta would have enjoyed 
a roll on the hay with the most intense delight ; but unfortunately 
Meta was in the full grandeur of visiting attire ; not in simple hay- 
making undress. Had you asked Meta, she would have told you she 
had on her ^' best things." Things too good to be allowed to come to 
grief in the hay. Maria soothed the disappointment by a promise for 
the morrow. Meta should come in her brown holland dress with 
Margery, and roll about as much as she pleased. Children are easily 
satisfied, and Meta paced on soberly under the promise, only giving 
covetous glances at the hay. With all her impulsive gaiety, her 
laughter and defiance of Margery, she was by nature a most gentle 
child, easily led. 

Maria was on her way to call at Lady Godolphin's Folly ; and thence 
at Ashlydyat. Maria was not given to making morning calls : she 
deemed it a very unsatisfactory waste of time. Very pleasant no doubt 
for gossips, but a hindrance to the serious business of hfe. She made 
them now and then ; just enough to save her credit, and that was all. 
Mrs. Pain had honoured Maria with about fifteen visits, and Maria was 
now going to return them all in one. No one could say Charlotte went 
in for ceremony ; she would run in and out of people's houses, as the 
whim took her, every day in the week sometimes, and of Maria's amidst 
the rest. Of late, she had called more frequently on Maria than usual : 
and Maria, her conscience weighty with the obligation, at last set out 
to return it. 

But she had not dressed for it — as some people would consider dress ; 
Charlotte herself, for instance. Charlotte would arrive, splendid as 
the sun ; not a colour of the rainbow came amiss to her ; a green dress 
one day, a violet another, a crimson a third, and so on. Dresses with 



A RED-LETTER DAY FOR MRS. BOND. 259 

flounces and furbelows ; jackets interlaced with gold and silver ; brim- 
less hats surmounted by upright plumes. All that Charlotte wore was 
good^ as far as cost went : as far as taste went, opinions differed. Maria 
had inherited the taste of her mother : she could not have been fine 
had you bribed her with gold. She wore to-day a pale dress of watered 
silk ; a beautiful Cashmere shawl of thin texture, and a white bonnet : 
all plain and quiet, as befitted a lady. The charming day had induced 
her to walk ; and the faint perfume of the hay, wafting through Prior's 
Ash, had caused her to choose the field way. The longest way, but 
infinitely the pleasantest. 

It took her past those tenements familiarly called the Pollard cottages: 
in one of which lived troublesome Mrs. Bond. All the inmates of these 
cottages were well known to Maria : had been known to her from child- 
hood : the Rector of All Souls' was wont to say that he had more trouble 
with the Pollard cottages than with all the rest of his parish. For 
one thing, sickness was often prevalent in them; sometimes death; 
and sickness and death give trouble and anxiety to a conscientious 
pastor. 

" Mamma, you going to see old Susan to-day? " chattered Miss Meta, 
as they approached the cottages. 

" Not to-day, Meta. I am going straight on to Mrs. Pain's." 

Meta, who was troubled with no qualms on the score of ceremony 
herself, perceiving one of the doors open, darted suddenly into it. 
Meta was rather in the habit of darting into any open door that it 
took her fancy so to do. Maria walked on a few steps, and then turned 
and waited : but the little truant did not appear to be in a hurry to 
come out, and she went back and followed her in. 

A lady in a rusty black stuff gown covered with snuff, her cap 
awry and her face somewhat flushed, was seated in state before a 
round deal table, doing nothing; except contemplating certain articles 
that were on the table, with a remarkably gratified expression of 
countenance. The lady was Mrs. Bond : and this, as Maria was soon 
to hear, had been a decidedly red-letter day with her. On the table — 
and it was this which appeared to be fascinating the attention of Meta 
— was a large wicker cage containing a parrot ; a small parrot with a 
plumage as fine as Mrs. Charlotte Pain's, an angry-looking tuft on its 
head, not at all unlike her hat's tuft of feathers. Mrs. Bond's attention 
appeared not to be so much absorbed by the parrot and cage, as by a 
green medicine-bottle, containing some clear-looking liquid, and a tea- 
cup without a handle. These latter articles were standing immediately 
before her. 

Two or three years ago, Mrs. Bond's eldest daughter, Peggy, a 
damsel who had not borne the brightest of characters for steadiness, 
had been taken out to Australia by a family to whom she engaged her- 
self as nurse-girl. After sundry vicissitudes in that country — which she 
duly chronicled home to her mother, and that lady was wont to relate 
in convivial moments, over tea or any other social beverage — Peggy had 
come to an anchor by marrying. She wrote word that her husband 
was an industrious young carpenter, who was making his fortune, and 
they were quite at ease in the world. As a proof of the latter state- 
ment, she had sent over a parrot to her mother as a keepsake, and a 



26o THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



trifle of money ; which would be safely delivered by a friend, who was 
going the home voyage. 

The friend was faithful. He had arrived on his mission that very 
morning at Mrs. Bond's, delivering the parrot uninjured and in rude 
health — if its capacity for screaming might be taken as an indication. 
The money turned out to be eleven pounds : a ten-pound note, and a 
sovereign in gold. Peggy probably knew enough of her mother to be 
certain that the first outlay made would be for " something comforting," 
and this may have induced her to add a sovereign, in some faint hope 
that the note would be preserved intact. Mrs. Bond had the sense to 
discern Peggy's motive, and openly spoke of it to Maria. She was in 
an open mood. In point of fact she had gone right off to Prior's Ash 
and changed the sovereign, bringing home that green bottle full of— 
comfort. It was three parts empty now, and Mrs. Bond, in con- 
sequence, had become rather red in the face, and was slipping some 
of her long words. 

" But you will not think of changing the note, will you ? " returned 
Maria, in answer to what Mrs. Bond disclosed. " How useful it would 
be to you in the winter for clothing and fire — if you would only keep it 
until then ! " 

" So it 'ould," responded Mrs. Bond. 

She dived into her pocket, and brought forth the note and a handful 
of silver, all lying loose, amidst a miscellaneous collection. " Don't it 
look pretty ? " cried she. 

"Very," said Maria, not certain whether she alluded to the parrot 
or the money, for Mrs. Bond's eyes were not remarkably direct in their 
glances just then. "Too pretty to spend," she added, in reference to 
the note. " You had better give it to papa, Mrs. Bond, and let him 
take care of it for you." 

Mrs. Bond shook her head at this proposition. " Once the parson 
gets hold on any little bit of our money to keep, he ain't free to give it 
up again," she objected. " ^ Keep it for this,' says he, or *keep it for 
that ; ' and it ends in its being laid out as he likes, not as us do." 

" As you please, of course," rejoined Maria. " I only thought it a 
pity you should not derive some real benefit from this money. If you 
keep it yourself you may be induced to change it, and then it would 
dwindle away in trifles, and do you no good.'* 

" That it 'ould ! " acknowledged Mrs. Bond. " IVe a'most a mind to 
let it be took care on, after all. If 'twas anybody but the Rector ! " 

" Shall I keep it for you ? " asked Maria. 

" Well now, 'ould you, ma'am ? " 

"Yes, I will. If you please." 

Mrs. Bond detached the note from the silver and other articles which 
she had brought up indiscriminately from her pocket. They lay in her 
capacious lap, and appeared to afford food for gratification to Meta, who 
had come round from the parrot to look at them. A brass thimble, 
a damp blue-bag, some halfpence, a recipe for toothache, a piece of 
ginger, and the end of a tallow candle, being amongst the items. 

"You'll promise to let me have it back if I asks for it?" cried she, 
clutching the note, and waiting for Maria's promise before she would 
surrender it. 



A RED-LETTER DAY FOR MRS. BOND. 261 



Certainly I will. Whenever you wish for it, you shall have it. 
Only," Maria added, smiHng, " if you ask for it too soon, I shall beg 
you still to let me keep it. Don't you remember how badly off you 
were last winter ? Just think what a ten-pound note would have done 
for you then, Mrs. Bond ! " 

" Lawks, ay ! It would a got me through the cold beautiful." ' 

"And I hope you will let this get you through next year's cold," 
returned Maria, putting the note into her purse. 

" Ay, sure ! But now, ain't it kind o' Peggy? " 

" Yes. It is dehghtful to hear that she is so well settled at last." 

" I've been drinking her health, and better luck still," said Mrs. 
Bond, taking the cork out of the bottle, and pouring out half its 
remaining contents. " 'Ould ye just take a drain, ma'am?" 

" No, thank you," replied Maria. " I don't like the smell of it." 

" No ! " returned Mrs. Bond, who, truth to say, but for the " drains " 
she had taken herself, and which had tended slightly to muddle her 
perceptions, would never have thought of proffering the invitation. 

Not like the smell [ It were tenpence the half-pint." 

Maria took the child's hand. Meta gave it reluctantly : the new 
parrot possessed great attractions for her. " I'll come again and see it 
to-morrow," said she to Mrs. Bond. " I'll come with Margery. I am 
coming to play in the hayfield." 

"Ay," returned Mrs. Bond. "Ain't it pretty! It's the best Old 
Tom." 

She was evidently getting a little confused in her intellects. Had 
Maria been a strong-minded district visitor, given to reforming the 
evils of the parish, she might have read Mrs. Bond a lecture on 
sobriety, and walked off with the bottle. Mrs. Bond and such medi- 
cine-bottles had however been too long and too well acquainted with 
each other, to admit any hope of their effectually parting now: and the 
last thing Maria caught, as she glanced back, was a vision of that 
lady's head thrown back, the inverted tea-cup to her hps. 

" The note would have been changed before the week was out ! " 
was Maria's mental comment. 

Without further adventure, she reached Lady Godolphin's Folly. 
Charlotte had visitors. A country squire's wife with her two daughters 
had come for a few days from their sober residence at a few miles' 
distance to the attractions of the Folly. Charlotte could make it 
attractive when she liked ; and invitations to it were in demand — 
which has been previously remarked. If people did think Mrs. Pain 
somewhat " fast " in her manners, she was no faster than some others. 

Charlotte was in one of her pleasantest moods, and Maria had rarely 
seen her looking so well. She wore a morning-dress of pink muslin, 
made simply, and confined at the waist by a band. Her hair was 
dressed simply also, brought rather low on her face and rolled : even 
Margery could not have found fault with her looks this morning. 

Or with her manner, either. She regaled Meta with strawberries ; 
and when they were finished, caught her up in her arms and carried 
her out by the glass door. 

" Do not keep her long, Mrs. Pain," said Maria. " I must be going." 

" Where is your hurry?" asked Charlotte. 



262 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I am going on to Ashlydyat." 

Charlotte departed with Meta, and Maria continued with the ladies, 
Charlotte's guests. They had been talking a few minutes, when loud 
screams of terror from Meta alarmed their ears. Maria hastened out 
in the direction of the sound, her cheeks and lips alike blanched. 

She came upon them — Charlotte and the child— in that secluded, 
lovely spot amidst the grove of trees, where Charlotte Pain — and you 
saw her — had held an interview with her future husband, Rodolf, on 
George Godolphin's wedding-day. Charlotte had now carried the child 
there, and set her on the mossy turf, and called her dogs around. She 
had done it thinking to give pleasure to the child. But Meta was of a 
timid nature ; she was not used to dogs ; and upon one of them spring- 
ing on her with a bark, " all for play," as Charlotte said, her fear broke 
forth in terrified cries. When Maria reached them, Charlotte had 
caught up Meta in her arms, and was kicking the dogs off. 

Meta sprang from Charlotte's arms to her mother's, with a great cry. 
Maria, not so strongly-framed as Charlotte, could not hold this child of 
between five and six at her ease, but was fain to stagger with her to 
a bench. Meta lay in her lap, clinging to her and sobbing con- 
vulsively. 

" My darhng, what is it ? " whispered Maria. " What has hurt 
you ? " 

" Oh, mamma, send them away ! send them away ! " cried the little 
imploring voice. 

" Would you be so kind as send the dogs away, Mrs. Pain ? " asked 
Maria. I think she is frightened at them." 

^' I know she is, foolish Httle thing ! " answered Charlotte, going off 
with the dogs. Apparently she disposed of them somewhere, for she 
returned the next minute without them. Maria was in the same place, 
holding her child to her heart. 

" Mrs. George Godolphin, don't you think you will have to answer 
sometime for the manner in which you are rearing that child ? " began 
she, gravely. 

In what way?" returned Maria. 

" You are bringing her up to be as timid as yourself." 

" Am I particularly timid ? " 

" You 1 Why, you know you are. You don't ride : you wouldn't 
drive for the world ; you are afraid of dogs." 

" I could manage to ride a quiet pony," said Maria. As to dogs, I 
confess that I am a little afraid of them, if they are rough." 

" If a dog only barks, you call it * rough,' " retorted Charlotte. " I 
should just put that child down again, and call the dogs round her, 
and let her battle it out with them. They would not hurt her ; there's 
no fear of that ; and it would teach her to overcome fear." 

" Oh, Mrs. Pain ! " Maria involuntarily strained her child closer to 
her, and Meta, who had heard the words, pushed her little hot face of 
distress nearer to its shelter. "It might throw her into such a state 
of terror, that she would never forget it. She would be frightened at 
dogs for her life. That is not the way to treat children, indeed, Mrs. 
Pain ! " 

Meta could not be coaxed down again. Maria was not strong 



A RED-LETTER DAY FOR MRS. BOND. 



263 



enough to carry her to the house, so Charlotte took her up in her 
arms. But the child would not release her hand from her mother's, and 
Maria had to walk along, holding it. 

" You pretty little timid goose ! " cried Charlotte, kissing her. 

Whatever would you do if you were to lose your mamma ? " 

" It would be a calamity, would it not, Meta ? " said Maria, speaking 
half-jokingly ; and Charlotte answered in the same light spirit. 

" A calamity in one sense, of course. But she might get a chance 
then of having a little of the rust rubbed out of her. Meta, we must 
have some more strawberries after this." 

But Meta could not be seduced to strawberries. Maria said farewell, 
and led her away, bending her steps to Ashlydyat. The child was 
frightened still. Janet gravely assured her that the dogs would not 
come to Ashlydyat, and Meta allowed herself to be taken possession 
of by Cecil, introducing the subject of Mrs. Bond's beautiful parrot and 
its large cage as she w^as going away. 

"We have heard about the parrot," remarked Bessy to Maria. 
" Susan Satcherly hobbled up here this morning, and mentioned its 
arrival. Susan hopes it won't scream all night as well as all day : she 
hears it next door as plainly as though the parrot were present there. 
A ten-pound note has come also, she says. Which I am almost 
sorry for," added Bessy : " though I suppose Mrs. Bond would think 
me terribly ill-natured if she heard me say so. She will change that 
note to-day, and never rest until the last shilling of it has been spent." 

" No, she will not," returned Maria, laughing, holding out the note 
in triumph. " She has given it to me to keep for her." 

" Never ! " exclaimed Bessy in surprise. " You must have exercised 
some sleight-of-hand, Maria, to get that ! " 

Maria laughed. " She was in an unusually tractable humour, Bessy. 
The fact is, a sovereign had arrived as well as the bank-note : and that 
she had changed." 

Bessy nodded her head. She knew Mrs. Bond of old. " I under- 
stand," said she. "Was she very bad, Maria .^" 

" No ; not then. But I can't say what she may be before the day is 
over. She brought a handful of silver out of her pocket." 

" Now, mind, Maria — don't give her up that note, let her ask for it 
ever so," advised Bessy. " Keep it until winter." 

" If she will allow me," replied Maria. " But she only resigned it 
on condition that I would return it to her if she asked for it. I promised 
that I would do so." 

" / should not : promise or no promise," returned Bessy. " Keeping 
it would be for her good, you know, Maria." 

Maria shook her head. She could not be strong-minded, as Bessy 
was, acting for people's good against their will ; and she could not go 
from her promise. She returned the note to her purse, knowing that 
Mrs. Bond would have it, if she chose to demand it. 

Maria was easily persuaded to remain for the day at Ashlydyat. She 
sat at the window in the height of enjoyment. It was enjoyment to 
Maria Godolphin : sitting there in perfect stillness on a calm summer's 
day. The lovely flowers of Ashlydyat's garden, its velvet lawns, were 
stretched out before her : the white walls of Lady Godolphin's Folly 



264 "THE! SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



rose in the distance ; and Maria sat in an easy-chair in luxurious 
idleness, her fair white hands lying in her lap. Meta was away some- 
where, fascinating the household, and all was rest. Rest from exertion, 
rest from care. The time came when Maria looked back on that day 
and believed it must have been paradise. 

Janet sent a note to the Bank, to desire George to come up to dinner 
with Thomas. When Thomas arrived, however, he was alone. George 
was out, therefore the note had not been given to him. They supposed 
he would be up in the evening, and dined without him. 

But the evening passed on, and he did not come. Thomas's private 
opinion was that George must have remained to search for the missing 
deeds. Thomas could not be easy under such a misfortune — as it might 
in truth be called. The sum was by far too weighty to be lost with 
equanimity. And that was not all: there was the unpleasant un- 
certainty with regard to the disappearance. Thomas mentioned the 
matter in confidence amongst them. At least, to Maria and Janet ; the 
other two had gone out with Meta. Janet observed that he appeared 
absorbed in thought, as if uneasy at something ; and he readily acknow- 
ledged that he had been rendered uneasy by a circumstance which had 
occurred during the day : the missing of some deeds that they had be- 
lieved to be in safe custody. 

" What if you cannot find them, Thomas ? " asked Janet. 

" Then we must make good the loss." 

" Is it a heavy amount ? " 

" Yes." 

Janet looked startled. Thomas's grave manner did not tend to re- 
assure her. She gave utterance to some half-spoken words. 

" It is a heavy amount as a loss," explained Thomas. "In fact, it is 
a large sum in itself. It would cost us over sixteen thousand pounds to 
make it good." 

Janet Hfted her hands in dismay. " And all from the loss of a single 
packet of deeds ? " 
" Even so." 

" But how can they have been lost ? " 

" There it is," said Thomas Godolphin. " It we could tell as much 
as that, it would be some satisfaction. We cannot imagine how or 

when they were lost. George missed them a month ago ; but " 

A month ago ! Did George miss them a month ago ? " 

It was Maria who interrupted, eagerness in her voice and manner. 

had occurred to her that the fact might account for a certain rest- 
lessness, an anxiety in George's manner, which she had not failed to 
remark of late. The next words of Thomas Godolphin served to 
dissipate the illusion. 

" George looked for the deeds a month ago. Not finding them in 
the box, he concluded that I had moved them. Therefore we cannot 
be said to have known of the loss until to-day." 

" George ought to have asked you," said Janet. 

" Yes, he ought," acquiesced Thomas. But it was all he said. 

" It is just like careless George ! " exclaimed Janet. " Should the 
time ever come that he is sole head of the Bank, I do not know how 
it will get on ! To whom did the deeds belong, Thomas ? " 



A RED-LETTER DAY FOR MRS. BOND. 



265 



To Lord Averil." 

" You are sure you had them ? " asked cautious Janet. 

A half smile crossed Thomas Godolphin's hps. " Quite sure, Janet. 
You understand," he added, looking at them both, " we do not care 
that this should be spoken of. You are safe, I know, Janet; and 
Maria would most likely hear it from George." 

Maria had been buried in a reverie. " I cannot conceive how it is 
possible for anything to have been lost from the strong-room," she 
said, lifting her head. " All about us are trustworthy. And, were they 
not, there would be no possibility of their getting to the safes in the 
strong-room." 

" You are right, Maria," said Thomas. " I have thought of it until 
I am bewildered." 

Maria seemed to be getting bewildered also. She was thinking of it 
in its every aspect and bearing. Many little past incidents, proving 
that her husband was ill at ease, had something on his mind, rushed 
into her memory. She had not thought much of them before : but 
they grew strangely vivid now. To miss deeds of this value would 
amply account for it. 

" Thomas," said she, speaking out her thoughts, " do you not think 
George must have feared there was something wrong, when he missed 
them at first? I do." 

" No. Why do you think it? " 

" Because " Maria stopped. It suddenly occurred to her that 

it might not be quite right to comment upon her husband's manner, 
what it had, or what it had not been ; that he might not like her to do 
so, although it was only to his brother and sister. So she turned it off: 
speaking any indifferent words that came uppermost. 

" It is curious, missing a packet of deeds of that value from its place, 
that he should not have feared it might be missing altogether." 

" The very fact of his not asking me about it, Maria, proves that no 
suspicion of wrong crossed his mind," was the comment of Thomas 
Godolphin. " He supposed I had placed it elsewhere." 

" That's just like George ! " repeated Janet. " Taking things on 
trust, as he takes people ! A child might deceive him." 

" I hope we shall find them yet," said Thomas Godolphin. 

" Does Lord Averil " 

What Janet might be about to inquire was never known. The words 
were stopped by a strange noise, an appalling noise, apparently at the 
very door of the room they were in. A loud, prolonged, discordant 
noise, unlike anything they had ever heard. Some might have com- 
pared it to the shrieks of a strong giant in his agony ; some to the 
hoarse screams of a bird of prey. But it was unlike either: it was 
unlike anything earthly. 

With one bound, they flew to the hall, on to which the room opened, 
Maria, white with terror. The servants came rushing from their apart- 
ments, and stood in consternation. 

What was the noise ? What had caused it ? The questions were 
pouring forth from all. The hall was perfectly empty, except for its 
startled gazers ; doors and windows had been closed. Thomas walked 
to the entrance and looked beyond, beyond the porch, but nothing 



266 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



was there. The space was empty ; the evening was cahii and still. At 
a distance, borne on the evening air, could be heard the merry laughter 
of Meta, playing with Bessy and Cecil. Thomas came in and closed 
the door again. 

" I cannot think what it could have been ! " he observed, speaking 
generally. 

The servants were ready with answering remarks. One had thought 
this ; one had thought that ; another something else. Maria had seized 
upon Janet : glad, perhaps, that it was too dark for her white face to 
be discerned. It was the soimd which, had so terrified her ; no associa- 
tion in her mind was connected with it : and it was the sound which 
had terrified the servants. They had never heard a sound like unto it 
in all their lives. 

" It must have been a night-bird, shrieking as he flew over the house," 
observed Mr. Godolphin. 

But, in truth, he so spoke only in the absence of any other possible 
assumption, and against his own belief. No bird of prey, known to 
ornithology, could have made that noise, even had it been within the 
hall to do it. A dozen birds of prey could not have made it. Thomas, 
like the rest, felt bewildered. 

The servants began to move away. Nothing more than usual was 
to be seen in the darkened hall : nothing to be heardj^ As the last one 
disappeared, Thomas turned to the drawing-room door, and held it 
open for his sister and Maria. 

At that very moment when they had gone in, and Thomas was 
following, the noise came again. Loud, prolonged, shrill, unearthly ! 
What was it? Were the rafters of the house loosening? the walls 
rending asunder? Were the skies opening for the crack of doom? 
They gathered in the hall again : master, ladies, servants ; and stood 
there, motionless, appalled, bewildered, their faces whiter than before. 

Its echoes died away in shrieks. Human cries this time, and not 
unfamiliar. One of the women-servants, excited beyond repression, 
had fallen into hysterics. 

But whence had proceeded that noise ? Where had been its centre ? 
Without the house, or within the house? — in its walls, its passages, 
its hall? — where? Its sound had been everywhere. In short, what 
had caused it ? what had it been? 

They could not tell. It was a problem beyond human philosophy 
to solve. They could not tell then ; they could not tell afterwards. 
It has been no ideal scene that I have described, as living witnesses 
could testify. Witnesses who can no more account for those unearthly 
sounds now, than they could account for them then. 



( 267 ) 



CHAPTER XIV. 

ISAAC HASTINGS TURNS TO THINKING. 

The revelation to Isaac Hastings, that the deeds, missing, belonged to 
Lord Averil, set that young gentleman thinking. Like his father, like 
his sister Grace, he was an exceedingly accurate observer, given to 
taking note of passing events. He had keen perception, a retentive 
memory for trifles, great powers of comparison and concentration. 
What with one thing and another, he had been a little puzzled lately 
by Mr. George Godolphin. There had been sundry odds and ends out 
of the common to be detected in Mr. George's manner : not patent to 
the generality of people, who are for the most part unobservant, but 
sufficiently conspicuous to Isaac Hastings. Anxiety about letters; 
trifles in the everyday ordering of the Bank ; one little circumstance, 
touching a delay in paying out some money, which Isaac, and he alone, 
had become accidentally cognizant of ; all formed food for speculation. 
There had been the somewhat doubtful affair of George Godolphin's 
secret journey to London, leaving false word with his wife that he was 
accompanying Captain St. Aubyn on the road to Portsmouth, which 
had travelled to the knowledge of Isaac through want of reticence in 
Charlotte Pain. More than all, making more impression upon Isaac, 
had been the strange, shrinking fear displayed by George, that Satur- 
day when he had announced Lord Averil ; a fear succeeded by a con- 
fusion of manner that proved his master must for the moment have 
lost his presence of mind. Isaac Hastings had announced the names 
of other gentlemen that day, and the announcement, equally with them- 
selves, had been received with the most perfect equanimity. Isaac 
had often thought of that little episode since, and wondered; wondered 
what there could be in Lord Averil's visit to scare Mr. George Godol- 
phin. It recurred to him now with double distinctness. The few 
words he had overheard, between Lord Averil and Mr. Godolphin, 
recurred to him — the former saying that George must have known of 
the loss of the deeds when he had asked for them a month ago, that 
he judged so by his manner, which was pecuhar, hesitating, uncertain, 
" as though he had known of the loss then, and did not like to tell 
of it." 

To the strange manner Isaac himself could have borne witness. 
Had this strangeness been caused by the knowledge of the loss of the 
deeds ? — if so, why did not George Godolphin make a stir about them 
then ? Only on the previous day, when Lord Averil had again made 
his appearance, Isaac had been further struck with George's startled 
hesitation, and with his refusal to see him. He had sent out word as 
the excuse, that he was particularly engaged. Isaac had believed at 
the time that George was no more engaged than he himself was. And 
now, this morning, when it could not be concealed any longer, came 
the commotion. The deeds were gone : they had disappeared in the 
most unaccountable manner, no one knowing how or when. 



268 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



What did it all mean ? Isaac Hastings asked himself the question 
as he pursued his business in the Bank, amidst the other clerks. He 
could not help aski}ig it. A mind, constituted as was that of Isaac 
Hastings, thoughtful, foreseeing, penetrating, cannot help entering upon 
these speculations, when surrounding circumstances call them forth. 
Could it be that George Godolphin had fallen into secret embarrass- 
ment? — that he had abstracted the deeds himself and used them ? Isaac 
felt his cheek flush with shame at the thought : with shame that he 
should allow himself to think such a thing of a Godolphin : and yet, 
he could not help it. No. Do as he would, he could not drive the 
thought away : it remained to haunt him. And, the longer it remained, 
the more vivid it grew. 

Ought he to give a hint of this to his father ? He did not know. 
On the one hand there was sober reason, which told him George 
Godolphin was not likely to be guilty of such a thing , on the other 
lay his fancy, whispering that it might be so. Things as strange had 
been enacted lately; as the public knew. Men, in an equally good 
position with George Godolphin, were proved to have been living upon 
fraud for years. Isaac was fond of newspapers, and knew all they 
could tell him. What if anything came wrong to this Bank ? Why 
then, Mr. Hastings would be a ruined man. It was not only the loss 
of his own life's savings, that were in the hands of Godolphin, Crosse, 
and Godolphin, but there was the larger sum he had placed there as 
trustee to the little Chisholms. 

Isaac Hastings lingered in the Bank till the last that evening. All 
had gone, except Mr. Hurde. The latter was preparing to leave, when 
Isaac went up to him, leaning his arms upon the desk. 

" It is a strange thing about those deeds, Mr. Hurde ! " cried he, in 
a low tone. 

Mr. Hurde nodded. 

^' It is troubling me amazingly," went on Isaac. 
This seemed to arouse the old clerk, and he looked up, speaking 
curtly. 

" Why should it trouble you ? You didn't take them, I suppose ? " 

" No, I didn't," said Isaac. 
Very well, then. The loss won't fall upon you. There's no need 
for your troubling." 

Isaac was silent. In truth, he was unable to give any reason for the 

troubling," except on general grounds : he could not say that a doubt 
was haunting his mind as to the good faith of Mr. George Godolphin. 

" It is a loss which I suppose Mr. George will have to make good, 
as they were in his custody," he resumed. " My sister won't like it, I 
fear." 

The observation recalled Mr. Hurde's memory to the fact that Mrs. 
George Godolphin was the sister of Isaac Hastings. It afforded a 
sufficient excuse for the remarks in the mind of the clerk, and some- 
what pacified him. 

It is to be hoped they'll be found," said he. " / don't see how they 
could have gone." 

Nor I," returned Isaac. ^' The worst is, if they have gone '* 

'^What?" asked Mr. Hurde, for Isaac had stopped. 



ISAAC HASTINGS TURNS TO THINKING. 269 



" That perhaps money has been made of them." 

Mr. Hurde groaned. " They have not been taken for nothing, you 
may be sure." 

If they have been taken," persisted Isaac. 

"If they have been taken," assented Mr. Hurde. " I don't beUeve 
they have. From the sheer impossibihty of anybody's getting to them, 
I don't beheve it. And I shan't beheve it, until every nook and corner 
between the four walls have been hunted over." 

" How do you account for their disappearance, then ? " 

" I think they must have been moved inadvertently." 

" No one could so move them except Mr. Godolphin or Mr. George," 
rejoined Isaac. 

" Mr. Godolphin has not moved them," returned the clerk in a testy 
tone of reproof. " Mr. Godolphin is too accurate a man of business 
to move deeds inadvertently, or to move them and forget it the next 
moment. Mr. George may have done it. In searching for anything 
in the strong-room, if he has had more than one case open at once, he 
may have put these deeds back in their wrong place, or even brought 
them upstairs." 

Isaac considered for a minute, and then shook his head. " I should 
not think it," he answered. 

" Well, it is the only supposition I can come to," was the concluding 
remark of Mr. Hurde. " It is next to an impossibihty, Mr. Godolphin 
excepted, that any one else can have got to the deeds." 

He was drawing on his gloves as he spoke, to depart. Isaac went 
out with him, but their roads lay different ways. Isaac turned towards 
All Souls' Rectory, and walked along in deep reverie. 

The Rectory hours were early, and he found them at tea : his mother, 
Rose, and Grace. Grace — Mrs. Akeman by her new name — was spend- 
ing the evening with them with her baby. The Rector, who had gone 
out in the afternoon, had not yet returned. 

Isaac took his tea and then strolled into the garden. Rose and the 
baby were making a great noise, and Grace was helping them. It dis- 
turbed Isaac m his perplexed thought, and he made a mental vow that 
if he was ever promoted to a home of his own with babies in it, they 
should be confined to some top room, out of sight and hearing. 

By-and-by, when he was leaning over the gate, looking into the 
road, Mr. Hastings came up. Isaac told him that tea was over: but 
Mr. Hastings said he had taken a cup with one of his parishioners. 
He had apparently walked home quickly, and he lifted his hat and 
wiped his brow. 

" Glorious weather for the haymaking, Isaac ! " 

"Is it?" returned Isaac abstractedly. 

" Is it I " repeated Mr. Hastings. " Where are your senses, boy ? " 

Isaac laughed and roused himself. " I fear they were buried just 
then, sir. I was thinking of something that has happened at the Bank 
to-day. A loss has been discovered." 

" A loss ? " repeated Mr, Hastings. " A loss of what ? " 

Isaac explained. He dropped his voice to a low tone, and spoke 
confidentially. They were leaning over the gate side by side. Mr. 
Hastings rather liked to take recreative moments there, exchanging a 



270 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



nod and a word with the passers-by. At this hour of the evening, how- 
ever, the road was generally free. 

" How can the deeds have gone ? " exclaimed Mr. Hastings. As 
every one else had said. 

I don't know," replied Isaac, breaking off a spray from the hedge, 
and beginning to bite the thorns. " I suppose it is all right," he presently 
added. 

Right in what way?" asked Mr. Hastings. 

" I suppose George Godolphin's all right, I mean." 

The words were as an unknown tongue to Mr. Hastings. He did 
not fathom them. " You suppose that George Godolphin is all right ! " 
he exclaimed. " You speak in riddles, Isaac." 

" I cannot say I suspect anything wrong, sir ; but the doubt has 
crossed me. It never would have done so, but for George Godolphin's 
manner." 

Mr. Hastings turned his penetrating gaze on his son, " Speak out," 
said he. " Tell me what you mean." 

Isaac did so. He related the circumstances of the loss; the con- 
fused manner he had observed in Mr. George Godolphin, on the visits 
of Lord Averil, and his reluctance to receive them. One little matter 
he suppressed : the stolen visit of George to London, and deceit to 
Maria, relative to it. Isaac did not see what that could have had to 
do with the loss of the deeds, and his good feeling told him that it was 
not a pleasant thing to name to his father. Mr. Hastings did not speak 
for a few minutes. 

" Isaac, I see no reasonable grounds for your doubts," he said at 
length. " The Bank is too flourishing for that. Perhaps you meant 
only as to George ? " 

" I can scarcely tell whether I really meant anything," rephed Isaac. 
" The doubts arose to me, and I thought I would mention them to you. 
I dare say my fancy is to blame : it does run riot sometimes." 

A silence ensued. Mr. Hastings broke it. "With a keen man of 
business, such as Mr. Thomas Godolphin, at the head of affairs, George 
could not go far wrong, I should presume. I think he spends enough 
on his own score, mark you, Isaac ; but that has nothing to do with 
the prosperity of the Bank." 

" Of course not. Unless " 

" Unless what ? Why don't you speak out ? " 

" Because I am not sure of my premises, sir," frankly answered Isaac. 
" Unless he were to have become irretrievably embarrassed, and should 
be using the Bank's funds for his own purposes, I believe I was about 
to say." 

" Pretty blind moles some of you must be, in that case ! Could such 
a thing be done without the cognizance of the house ? Of Mr. Hurde 
and of Thomas Godolphin ? " 

"Well — no — I don't much think it could," hesitated Isaac, who was 
not at all certain upon the point. " At any rate, not to any extent. I 
suppose one of my old crotchets — as Grace used to call them — has 
taken possession of me, rendering me absurdly fanciful. I dare say it 
is all right : except that the deeds are mislaid." 

" I dare say it is," acquiesced the Rector. " I should be sorry 



ISAAC HASTINGS TURNS TO THINKING. 



to think it otherwise — for many reasons. Grace is here, is she 
not ? " 

" Grace is here, and Grace's son and heir, making enough noise for 
ten. I can't think why Grace " 

" What are you taking my name in vain tor ? " interrupted Grace's 
own voice. She had come up to them carrying the very son and heir 
that Isaac had been complaining of : a young gentleman with a bald 
head, just beginning to exercise his hands in dumb fights ; as well as 
his lungs. " Papa, mamma says are you not going in to tea ? " 

Before the Rector could answer, or Isaac extricate his hair from the 
unconsciously mischievous little hands which had seized upon it by 
Grace's connivance, there came a gay party of equestrians round the 
corner of the road. Charlotte Pain, with the two young ladies, her 
guests ; Lady Sarah and Miss Grame, who sometimes hired horses for 
a ride ; and three or four gentlemen. Amongst the latter were George 
Godolphin and Lord Averil. Lord Averil had met them accidentally 
and joined their party. He was riding by the side of Charlotte Pain. 

" I say, Grace ! " hastily exclaimed Isaac, twitching away his head, 
" take that baby in, out of sight. Look there ! " 

" Take my baby in ! " resentfully spoke Grace. " What for ? I am 
not ashamed to be seen holding it. Keeping only two servants, I must 
turn nurse sometimes : and people know it. I am not situated as Maria 
is, with a dozen at her beck and call." 

Isaac did not prolong the discussion. He thought if he owned an 
ugly baby with no hair, he should not be so fond of showing it off. 
Grace stood her ground, and the baby stood his, and lifted its head and 
its arms by way of greeting. Isaac wondered that it did not hft its 
voice as well. 

The party exchanged bows as they rode past. George Godolphin — 
he was riding by the side of Sarah Anne Grame — withdrew his horse 
from the throng and rode up. 

" How are you, Grace ? How is the baby ? " 

" Look at him," returned Grace in answer, holding the gentleman up 
to him. 

" Shall I take him for a ride ? " asked George, laughing. 

" Not if you paid me his value in gold," answered Grace bluntly. 

George's gay blue eyes twinkled. " What may that value be ? Your 
estimation of it, Grace ? " 

" Never mind," said Grace. " I can tell you that your Bank would 
not meet it. No, not if all its coffers were filled to the brim." 

"I see," observed George: "he is inestimable. Do not set your 
heart too much upon him, Grace," he continued, his voice changing. 

" Why not ? " she asked. 

" Maria had to lose some, equally dear." 

" That is true," said Grace in softened tones. " How is Maria to- 
day ? " ^ 

" Quite well, thank you. She went to Ashlydyat this afternoon, and 
I dare say has remained there. Famous weather for the hay, is it not, 
sir ? '^ he added to the Rector. 

" Couldn't he better," repUed Mr. Hastings. 

George rode off at a canter. The baby burst into a cry ; perhaps that 



272 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



he could not go off at a canter too : and Grace, after a vain attempt to 
hush him, carried him into the house. The Rector remained, looking 
over the gate. 

"Things going wrong with him! — No! He could not be so easy 
under it," was his mental conclusion. "It is all right, depend upon 
it," he added aloud to his son. 

" I think it must be, sir," was the reply of Isaac Hastings. 



CHAPTER XV. 

A NIGHTMARE FOR THE RECTOR OB^ ALL SOULS'. 

The Reverend Mr. Hastings had audibly expressed a wish never again 
to be left in the responsible position of trustee, and the Reverend Mr. 
Hastings echoed it a second time as he ascended a gig which was to 
convey him to Binham. A vestry meeting at All Souls' had been called 
for that evening at seven o'clock ; but something arose during the day 
connected with the trust, and at four Mr. Hastings set off in a gig to 
see Brierly, the late agent to the Chisholm property. " I '11 be back by 
seven if I can, Smith," he observed to his clerk. "If not, the meeting 
must commence without me." 

The way to Binham lay through shady lanes and unfrequented roads : 
unfrequented as compared with those where the traffic is great. It was 
a small place about six miles' distance from Prior's Ash, and the Rector 
enjoyed the drive. The day was warm and fine as the previous one 
had been — when you saw Maria Godolphin walking through the hay- 
field. Shady trees in some parts met overhead, the limes gave forth 
their sweet perfume, the heavy crops of grass gladdened the Rector's 
eye, some still uncut, some in process of being converted into hay by 
labourers, who looked off to salute the well-known clergyman as he 
drove past. 

" I might have brought Rose, after all," he soliloquized. " She 
would have had a pleasant drive. Only she would have been half an 
hour getting ready." 

He found Mr. Brierly at home, and their little matter of business was 
soon concluded. Mr. Hastings had other places to call at in the town : 
he had always plenty of people to see when he went to Binham, for he 
knew every one in it. 

" I wish you would take something," said the agent. 

" I can't stay," replied Mr. Hastings. " I shall find old Mrs. Chisholm 
at tea, and can take a cup with her, standing. That won't lose time. 
You have not heard from Harknar ? " 

" No : not directly. His brother thinks he will be home next week." 

" The sooner the better. I want the affair settled, and the money 
placed out." 

He held out his hand as he spoke. Mr. Brierly, who, in days long 
gone by, when they were both boys together, had been an old school- 
fellow of the Rector's, put his own into it. But he did not withdraw it : 
he appeared to be in some hesitation. 



A NIGHTMARE FOR THE RECTOR OF ALL SOULS^ 27^ 



" Mr. Hastings, excuse me," he said, presently, speaking slowly, 
" have you kept the money, which I paid over to you, in your own 
possession ? " 

" Of course not. I took it the same night to the Bank." 
"Ay. I guessed you would. Is it safe.'*" he added, lowering his 
voice. 

"Safef^ echoed Mr. Hastings. 

" I will tell you why I speak. Rutt the lawyer, over at your place, 
was here this afternoon, and in the course of conversation he dropped a 
hint that something was v/rong at Godolphins'. It was not known yet, 
he said, but it would be known very soon." 

Mr. Hastings paused. " Did he state his grounds for the assertion ? " 

" No. From what I could gather, it appeared that he spoke from some 
vague rumour that was going about." 

" I think I can explain it," said Mr. Hastings. "A packet of deeds 
belonging to one of their clients has been lost — has disappeared at 
least in some unaccountable manner; and this, I expect, must have 
given rise to the rumour. But the loss of twenty such packets, all to 
be made good, would not shake the solvency of Godolphin, Crosse, and 
Godolphin." 

" That must be it, then ! What simpletons people are ! swallowing 
any absurd rumour that gets afloat ; converting a molehill into a 
mountain ! I thought it strange — for a stable old house like the 
Godolphins'." 

" Let me recommend you, Brierly, not to mention it further. If such 
a report got about, it might cause a run upon the Bank. Not but that, 
so far as I believe, the Bank could stand any run that might be made 
upon it." 

" I should not have mentioned it at all, except to you," returned Mr. 
Brierly. " And only to you, because I expected the Chisholms' money 
was there. Rutt is not a safe man to speak after, at the best of times. 
I told him I did not believe him. And I did not. Still — if anything 
were to happen, and I had bottled up the rumour, without giving you a 
hint of it, I should never cease to blame myself" 

" That is the origin of it, you may be sure ; the loss of those deeds," 
observed the Rector. " I know the clerks were questioned about it 
yesterday, and some of them must have got talking out of doors. Good 
day, Brierly." 

Mr. Hastings paid the rest of his visits, and drove home. In spite 
of himself, he could not keep his mind from reverting — and somewhat 
unpleasantly — to what he had heard. He believed the Bank to be 
perfectly solvent ; to be more than solvent. Until the previous evening, 
when Isaac had made that communication to him, he had been ready 
to answer for its flourishing condition on his own responsibiHty, if 
required. He fully believed the rumour, spoken of by Rutt the lawyer, 
to arise from some distorted hints of the missing deeds which had oozed 
out, and to have no other foundation whatever : and yet he could not 
keep his mind from reverting to it uneasily. 

The ting-tang (it deserved no better name, and Prior's Ash gave it no 
other) of All Souls' Church was sending forth its last notes as the 
Rector drove in. Handing over the horse and gig to the waiting 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 18 



274 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



servant of the friend from whom it was borrowed — a gig always at the 
disposal of the Rector — he made his way to the vestry, and had the 
pleasure of presiding at a stormy meeting. There were divided parties 
in the parish at that time, touching a rate to be paid, or a non-rate ; 
and opposing eloquence ran high. Personally, the Rector was not an 
interested party ; but he had a somewhat difficult course to steer be- 
tween the two, to avoid offending either. It was half-past nine when 
the meeting broke up. 

"Any news of the missing deeds, Isaac ?" he took an opportunity of 
asking his son. 

"I think not," repHed Isaac. "We have heard nothing about it 
to-day." 

" I suppose things have gone on, then, as usual ? " 

" Quite so. We shall hear no more of it, I dare say, in the Bank. If 
the bonds can't be found, the firm will have to make them good, and 
there'll be an end of it." 

" A very unsatisfactory ending, I should think, if I had to make them 
good," observed the Rector. " I don't like things disappearing, nobody 
knows how or why." 

He said no more. He gave no hint to Isaac of the rumour that had 
been whispered to him, nor questioned him upon its probable foundation. 
It was the best proof that Mr. Hastings assigned to it no foundation.- 
In sober reason he did not do so. 

But things — troubles, cares, annoyances — wear different aspects in the 
day and in the night. More than all, sicspense wears a different one. 
An undefined dread, whatever may be its nature, can be drowned in 
the daily bustle of life : business, pleasure, occupation. These fill up 
the mind, and the bugbear is lost sight of. But at night, when the 
head lies upon the sleepless pillow, and there is nothing to distract the 
thoughts ; when all around is dark and silent, then, if there is an inner, 
secret dread, it asserts itself in guise worse than reality. 

Mr. Hastings was not an imaginative man. Quite the contrary. He 
was more given to dealing with things, whether pleasant or painful, in 
a practical manner by daylight, than to racking his brains with them at 
night. Therefore, the way in which the new doubt troubled him as he 
lay in bed that night, was something wonderful. Had he been a fanciful 
woman, he could not have experienced worse treatment from his 
imagination. It was running riot within him. Could it be that the 
money entrusted to him was gone? — lost? Had he put it into that 
Bank for safety, only to find that the Bank would never refund it 
again? How was he to make it good ? He could not make it good, 
and the little Chisholms, the children of his dead friend, would be 
beggars! He thought not of his own money, lodged in the charge of 
Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin; that seemed as nothing in com- 
parison with this. Mr. Hastings had had rather an expensive family ; 
he had given money away in his parish — a conscientious clergyman is 
obliged to give, more or less — and his savings, all told, did not amount 
to more than two thousand pounds. It was not of that, equally at stake, 
that he thought, but of this other and larger sum, of which he was but 
the steward. 

Try as he would, he could not get to sleep ; try as he would, he 



A NIGHTMARE FOR THE RECTOR OF ALL SOULS'. 275 



could not put these half-insane visions from him. His mind became 
wrought up to its very highest pitch ; he could have found it in his heart 
to get up, make his way to the Bank, knock up George Godolphin, and 
demand his money back again. He registered a silent resolve that he 
would go there with the first glimmer of daylight. Yesterday he was 
a free man, a man at his ease, it may be said a prosperous man ; to- 
morrow, should that money be beyond his reach, he would be ruined 
for ever ; broken down under his weight of care. What if he were too 
late 1 — if he went to the Bank, and was told, " The Bank is in embar- 
rassment, and we cannot refund ! " Oh, how supinely careless had he 
been, to suffer a whole day to slip by since Isaac's warning! Any hour 
of that past day he might have withdrawn the money ; might now have 
had it securely in the chest by his bedside. When another day dawned, 
it might be too late. 

Torments such as these — and they were all the more intolerable from 
the fact of his not being used to them — haunted him throughout the 
night. They have haunted us : they, or similar ones. Towards morn- 
ing he dropped into a heavy sleep, awaking later than his usual hour. 
Those dark visions had gone then ; but their effect remained sufficient 
to keep the Rector to his resolve of drawing out the money. " I'll go 
the first thing after breakfast," said he, as he dressed himself. 

But, when breakfast was over, and the business of the day was fairly 
entered upon, Mr. Hastings felt half ashamed of his resolution. The 
visions of the night appeared to him to be simply fantastic follies, 
diseased creations of the brain : should there be really no cause for his 
withdrawal of the money, how worse than foolish he would look! — 
nay, how unjustifiable would such a procedure be ! 

What ought he to do ? He leaned over the gate while he took counsel 
with himself. He had put on his hat and taken his stick, and gone 
forth ; and there he stopped, hesitating. A strange frame of mind for 
Mr. Hastings, who was not of a vacillating nature. Suddenly he flung 
the gate open and went through with a decisive step ; his determination 
was taken. He would steer a middle course, present himself to his 
son-in-law, George Godolphin, and ask him frankly, as a friend and 
relative, whether the money was safe. 

Many a one would have decided that it was a safe and proper course 
to pursue. Mr. Hastings deemed it to be such, and he proceeded to 
the Bank. The fresh air, the bright sun, the pleasant bustle of daily 
life, had well-nigh dissipated any remaining fears before he got there. 
" Can I see Mr. George Godolphin ? " he inquired. 
"Mr. George is engaged at present, sir," replied the clerk to whom 
he had addressed himself. " He will be at liberty soon. Would you 
like to take a seat ? " 

Mr. Hastings sat down on the chair handed him, and waited ; 
watching at his leisure the business of the Bank. Several people were 
there. Some were paying money in, some drawing it out. There 
appeared to be no hesitation, either in paying or receiving : all seemed 
as usual. One man brought a cheque for nine hundred and odd pounds, 
and it was counted out to him. " I feel sure it is all right," was the 
conclusion come to by Mr. Hastings. 
About ten minutes, and George Godolphin came forward. Ah ! is 



276 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



it you ? " said he, with his sunny smile. " You are here early this 
morning." 

" I want to say just a word to you in private, Mr. George." 

George led the way to his room, talking gaily. He pushed a chair 
towards Mr. Hastings, and took his own. Never a face more free from 
care than his ; never an eye less troubled. He asked after Mrs. Hast- 
ings ; asked after Reginald, who was daily expected home from a voyage 
— whether he had arrived. " Maria dreamt last night that he had 
returned," said he, laughing, " and told her he was never going to sea 
again." 

Mr. Hastings remembered his dreams — if dreams they could be called. 
He was beginning to think that he must have had nightmare. 

" Mr. George, I have come to you upon a strange errand," he began. 
" Will you for a few moments regard me as a confidential friend, and 
treat me as one ? " 

" I hope it is what I always do, sir," was the reply of George 
Godolphin. 

" Ay ; but I want a proof of your friendship this morning. But for 
my being connected with you by close ties, I should not have so come. 
Tell me, honestly and confidentially, as between man and man — Is that 
trust-money safe ? " 

George looked at Mr. Hastings, his countenance slightly changing. 
Mr. Hastings thought he was vexed. 

" I do not understand you," he said. 

" I have heard a rumour — I have heard, in fact, two rumours — 

that The long and the short of it is this," more rapidly continued 

Mr. Hastings, " I have heard that there's something doubtful arising 
with the Bank." 

" What on earth do you mean ? " exclaimed George Godolphin. 

" Is there anything the matter ? Or is the Bank as solvent as it ought 
to be?" 

" I should be sorry to think it otherwise," replied George. " I don't 
understand you. What have you heard ? ^' 

" Just what I tell you. A friend spoke to me in private yesterday, 
when I was at Binham, saying that he had heard a suspicion of some- 
thing being wrong with the Bank here. You will not be surprised that 
I thought of the nine thousand pounds I had just paid in." 

" Who said it ? " asked George. " I'll prosecute him if I can find out." 

" I dare say you would. But I have not come here to make mischief. 
I stopped his repeating it, and I, you know, am safe, so there's no harm 
done. I have passed an uneasy night, and I have come to ask you to 
tell me the truth in all good faith." 

" The Bank is all right," said George. " I cannot imagine how such 
a report could by any possibility have arisen," he continued, quitting 
the one point for the other. " There is no foundation for it." 

George Godolphin spoke in all good faith when he said he could not 
tell how the report could have arisen. He really could not. Nothing 
had transpired at Prior's Ash to give rise to it. Possibly he deemed, 
in his sanguine temperament, that he spoke in equally good faith, when 
assuring Mr. Hastings that the Bank was all right : he may have believed 
that it would so continue. 



A NIGHTMARE FOR THE RECTOR OF ALL SOULS'. 277 



" The money is safe, then ? " 
" Perfectly safe." 

" Otherwise, you must let me have it out now. Were it to be lost, it 
would be ruin to me, ruin to the little Chisholms." 

" But it is safe," returned George, all the more emphatically, because 
it would have been remarkably inconvenient, for special reasons, to 
refund it then to Mr. Hastings. I repeat, that he may have thought it 
was safe : safe in so far as that the Bank would get along somehow, 
and could repay it sometime. Meanwhile, the use of it was convenient 
i — how convenient, none knew, except George. 

"A packet of deeds has been mislaid; or is missing in some 
way," resumed Georg^. "They belong to Lord Averil. It must be 
some version of that which has got abroad—if anything has got 
abroad." 

"Ay," nodded Mr. Hastings. The opinion coincided precisely with 
what he had expressed to the agent. 

" I know of nothing else wrong with the Bank," spoke George. 
"Were you to ask my brother, I am sure he would tell you that 
business was never more flourishing. I wish to goodness people could 
be compelled to concern themselves with their own affairs instead of 
inventing falsehoods for their friends ! " 

Mr. Hastings rose. "Your assurance is sufficient, Mr. George : I do 
not require your brother's word to confirm it. I have asked it of you 
in all good faith, Maria being the link between us." 

" To be sure," replied George; and he shook Mr. Hastings's hand as 
he went out. 

George remained alone, biting the end of his quill pen. To hear 
that any such rumour was abroad vexed and annoyed him beyond 
measure. He only hoped that it would not spread far. Some wiseacre 
must have picked up an inkling about the deeds, and converted it into 
a doubt upon the Bank's solvency. " I wish I could hang the fools ! " 
muttered George. 

His wish was interrupted. Some one came in and said that Mr. 
Barnaby desired to see him. 

" Let him come in," said George. 

Mr. Barnaby came in. A simple-looking man of quiet manners, a 
corn-dealer, who kept an account at the Bank. He had a canvas bag 
in his hand. George asked him to take a seat. 

" I was going to pay in two thousand pounds, sir," said he, slightly 
lifting the bag to indicate that the money was there. " But I should 
like, first of all, to be assured that it's all right." 

George sat and stared at him. Was Prior's Ash all going mad to- 
gether ? George honestly believed that nothing yet had transpired, or 
could have transpired, to set these doubts afloat. " Really, Mr. Barnaby, 
I do not understand you," he said, with some hauteur : just as he had 
answered Mr. Hastings. 

" I called in at Rutt's, sir, as I came along, to know what had been 
done in that business where I was chiselled out of that load of barley, 
and I happened to mention that I was coming on here to pay in two 
thousand pounds. * Take care that it's all right,' said Rutt. ' I heard 
the Bank talked about yesterday.' Js it all right, sir ? " 



278 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" It is as right as the Bank of England," impulsively answered George. 
Rutt shall be brought to account for this." 

" Well, I thought it was odd if there was anything up. Then I may 
leave it with safety ? " 

" Yes, you may," replied George. " Have you not always found it 
safe hitherto ? " 

^' That's just it : I couldn't fancy that anything wrong had come to 
it all of a sudden. I'll go and pay it in then, sir. It won't be for long, 
though. I shall be wanting it out, I expect, by the end of next week." 

" Whenever you please, Mr. Barnaby," replied George. 

The corn-dealer retired to leave his money, and George Godolphin 
sat on alone, biting his pen as before. Where could these rumours 
have had their rise 1 Harmlessly enough they might have fallen, had 
nothing been rotten at the core of affairs : George alone knew how 
awfully dangerous they might prove now, if they got wind. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 

If the mysterious loss of the deeds disturbed Thomas Godolphin, 
it was also disturbing, in no slight degree, the faithful old clerk, 
Mr. Hurde. Never, since he had entered the house of Godolphin, 
Crosse, and Godolphin — so many yearsr ago now, that he had almost 
lost count of them — had any similarly unsatisfactory incident occurred. 
Mr. Hurde thought and thought and thought it over : he turned it 
about in his mind, and looked at it in all its bearings, He came to the 
conclusion that it must be one of two things ; either that George 
Godolphin had inadvertently misplaced it, or that it had been stolen 
out and out. George Godolphin said that he had not misplaced it : 
indeed, George did not acknowledge to any recollection of having 
visited at all Lord Averil's box, except when he went to make the 
search : and Mr. Godolphin had now looked in every box that the safe 
contained, and could not find it. Therefore, after much vacillating 
between opinions, the head clerk came to the conclusion that the deeds 
had been taken. 

" Who could have done it ? " he asked himself over and over again. 
Some one about them, doubtless. He believed all the clerks were safe; 
that is, honest ; except Layton. Until this happened, he would have 
said Layton was safe : and it was only in the utter absence of any other 
quarter for suspicion that he cast a doubt upon Layton. Of the clerks, 
he felt least sure ot Layton : but that was the utmost that could be said : 
he would not have doubted the man, but that he was seeking for some 
one to lay it on. The deeds could not have gone without hands, and 
Mr. Hurde, in his perplexity, could only think that Layton's hands were 
less unlikely hands than others'. 

The previous evening he had gone home thinking of it. And there 
he pondered the affair over, while he digested his dry toast and his 
niilkless tea. He was a man of spare habits : partly that his health 



MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 



279 



compelled him to be so ; partly from a parsimonious nr cure. While 
seated at it, composedly enjoying the ungenerous fare near the open 
window, who should he see go by, but the very man on whom his 
thoughts were fixed — Layton. This Layton was a young, good-looking 
man, an inveterate dandy, with curls and a moustache. That moustache, 
sober, clean-shaved Mr. Hurde had always looked askance upon. That 
Layton had been given to spend more than was wise. Prior's Ash knew 
well enough ; but for that fact, he would not now have been a banker's 
clerk. His family were respectable — wealthy in a moderate way ; but 
he had run through too much of their money and tired them out. For 
the last two or three years he had settled down to sobriety. Thomas 
Godolphin had admitted him to a clerkship in his house, and Layton 
had married, and appeared contented to live quietly. 

Quietly for him — as compared to what he had been accustomed to : 
too extensively in the opinion of Mr. Hurde. Mrs. Layton had a 
piano, and played and sang very much, for the benefit of the passers- 
by ; and Layton hired gigs on a Sunday and drove her out. Great food 
for Mr. Hurde's censure ; and he was thinking of all this when Layton 
passed. Starting up to look after him, he almost upset his tea-table. 

He, Layton, was walking arm in arm with a Mr. Jolly : a great 
sporting character. Mr. Hurde gave a groan of dissatisfaction. *^Much 
good it will bring him if he gets intimate with him ! " 

In the darkness of the evening, when it had grown quite late and Mr. 
Hurde had taken his frugal supper, he went out, and bent his steps 
towards the residence of Layton. In his present uncertain frame of 
mind, touching Layton, it seemed expedient to Mr. Hurde to take a 
walk past his place of abode ; haply he might come upon something 
or other to confirm his suspicions. 

And he did so. At least, it appeared to Mr. Hurde that he did so. 
Never a shade of doubt rested upon him that night that the thief was 
Layton. 

On the high-road, going towards Ashlydyat, there had been a good 
deal of building of late years. Houses and terraces had sprung up, 
almost as by magic, not only along the road, but branching off on 
either side of it. Down one of these turnings, a row of dwellings of 
that class called in the local phraseology " genteel," had been erected 
by a fanciful architect. He had certainly not displayed any great 
amount of judgment in building them. They contained eight rooms, 
had glittering white fronts and green porticos of trellis-work. White 
houses are very nice, and there's nothing objectionable in green porticos ; 
but they need not abut right upon the public pathway. Walking in 
front of the terrace, the porticos looked hke so many green watch- 
boxes, and the bow-windows appeared to be constructed on purpose 
that you should see what was inside them. In the last house of this 
row dwelt the clerk, Layton. He and his wife had lodgings there : 
the bow-windowed sitting-room, and the bedroom over it. 

Mr. Hurde strolled past, in the dehberate manner that he might have 
done had he been out for only an evening airing, and obtained full 
view of the interior of the sitting-room. He obtained the pleasure of a 
very full view indeed. In fact, there appeared to be so much to look 
at, that his vision at first could only take it in confusedly. 



28o 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



The Laytons were entertaining a party. Two or three ladies, and 
two or three gentlemen. A supper-tray was at one end of the table, 
and at this end next the window, were two decanters of wine, some 
fruit and biscuits. There was a great deal of talking and laughing, 
and there was plenty of light. Four wax candles Mr. Hurde counted 
as he stood there ; two on the table, two on the mantelpiece. He, the 
old clerk, stood there, unseen and unsuspected, and took it all in. The 
display of glass looked profuse, and he almost groaned aloud when 
he caught sight of the silver forks : silver or imitation, he did not 
know which, but it appeared all one to Mr. Hurde. He had never 
overstepped the respectable customs of his forefathers — had never 
advanced beyond the good old-fashioned two-pronged steel fork. They 
were sitting with the window open : no houses were as yet built oppo- 
site, and the road was not invaded, except by persons coming to these 
houses, from one hour's end to another. Mr. Hurde could stand 
there, and enjoy the sight at leisure. If ever a man felt conviction 
rush to his heart, he did then. Wine, and wax candles, and silver 
forks, and supper, and visitors ! — who but Layton could have taken the 
deeds ? 

He stood there a little too long. FalHng into a reverie, he did not 
notice a movement within, and suffered himself to be all but dropped 
upon. He could have made an excuse, it is true ; for Layton was a 
civil fellow, and had several times asked him to go up there ; but he 
preferred not to make it, and not to be seen. The street door opened, 
and Mr. Hurde had just time to dart past the portico and take shelter 
round the corner. From his position he was within hearing of anything 
that might be said. 

The sporting character with whom he had seen Layton walking 
early in the evening, and who made one of the guests, had come forth 
to depart. Layton had attended him to the door ; and they stood in- 
side the portico talking. In Mr. Hurde's fluster, he did not at first 
catch the sense of the words : but he soon found it related to horse- 
racing. 

" You back Cannonbar," said the sporting man. " You can't be far 
out then. He's a first-rate horse : will beat the whole field into next 
week. You were in luck to draw him." 

" I have backed him," rephed Layton. 

" Back him again : he's a little gold mine. I'd spend a fifty-pound 
note on him. I really would." 

Layton answered with a laugh. They shook hands and the sporting 
friend, who appeared to be in a hurry, set off rapidly in the direction 
of Prior's Ash. Mr. Layton went in again, and shut the door. 

Then Mr. Hurde came out of his corner. All his suspicions were 
strengthened. Strengthened? nay; changed into certainties. Plate, 
glass, wax candles, wines, supper and friends, had been doubtful 
enough ; but they were as trifles compared with this new danger ; this 
betting on the turf. Had he seen Layton take Lord Averil's deeds 
with his own eyes, he could not have been more certain of his guilt, 
than he felt now. 

Enjoying another quiet survey of the room, during which he had 
the gratification of hearing Mrs. Layton, who had now seated herself 



MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 



281 



at the piano, plunge into a song, which began something about a " bird 
on the wing," the old clerk, grievously discomfited, retraced his steps 
past the terrace, picked his way over some loose land in front of 
another terrace in process of erection, and turned into the high-road, 
leading to Prior's Ash. He was going along lost in thought, when 
he nearly ran against a gentleman turning an angle of the road. It 
was Mr. Godolphin. 

" Oh — I beg your pardon sir. I did not look where I was going." 

"Enjoying an evening's stroll, Hurde?" said Mr. Godolphin. He 
had been spending an hour with Lord Averil, who, in doubt and un- 
certainty as to his deeds, had not departed from Prior's Ash. " It is 
a beautiful night : so serene and still." 

" No, sir, I can't say that I am enjoying it," was Mr. Hurde's reply. 
" My mind was not at ease as to Layton. I could not help associating 
him with the loss of the deeds, and I came out, thinking I'd look about 
a bit. It must have been instinct sent me, for I have had my suspicions 
confirmed." 

" Confirmed in what way?" asked Thomas Godolphin. 

" That Layton has had the deeds. It could have been no otner." 

Thomas Godolphin listened in surprise, not to say increduhty. 
" How have you had them confirmed.''" he inquired, after a pause. 

So then the clerk enlarged upon what he had seen. "It could not all 
come out of his salary, Mr. Godolphin. It does not stand to reason 
that it could." 

" As a daily extravagance, of course it could not, Hurde," was the 
reply. " But it may be only a chance entertainment ? " 

Mr. Hurde passed over the question : possibly he felt that he could 
not meet it. "And the betting? — risking money upon race-horses, 
sir?" 

"Ah! I like that less," readily acknowledged Thomas Godolphin. 
" Many a clerk of far higher position than Layton has been ruined 
by it." 

" And sent across the herring-pond to expiate his folly," returned Mr. 
Hurde, whom the mention of " backing " and other such incentive 
temptations was wont to exasperate in no measured degree. " I am 
afraid it looks pretty plain, sir." 

" I don't know," said Thomas Godolphin musingly. " I cannot 
think Layton has become a rogue. I see nothing inconsistent — with 
all due deference to your opinion, Hurde — I see nothing inconsistent 
with his position in his entertaining a few friends occasionally. But — 
without any reference to our loss — if he is turning, or has turned a bet- 
ting-man, it must be looked after. We will have none such in the Bank." 

" No, sir ; it would not do at any price," acquiesced Mr. Hurde. 
"Are you feeling pretty well, sir, this evening?" he inquired, as Mr. 
Godolphin was preparing to continue his way. 

" Quite well. I have not felt so well for a long time, as I have done 
the last few days. Good night, Hurde." 

It seemed that Mr. Hurde was fated that night to come into contact 
with his principals. Who should overtake him, just as he had come 
to the spot where the houses were numerous, but Mr. George Godolphin. 
George slackened his steps — he had bepn walking along at a striding 



282 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



pace — and kept by his side. He began speaking of the hay and other 
indifferent topics : but Mr. Hurde's mind was not attuned to such that 
night. 

" I think I have solved the mystery, Mr. George," began he. 
"What mystery?" asked George. 

" The steahng of Lord Averil's bonds. I know who took them." 

George turned his head sharply and looked at him. " What non- 
sense are you saying now, Hurde?" 

" I wish it was nonsense, sir," was the reply of Mr. Hurde. " I am 
as sure that I know how it was those bonds went, and who took them, 
as that I am here." 

"And whom do you accuse?" asked George, after a pause, speaking 
somewhat sarcastically. 

" Layton." 

" Layton ! " shouted George, stopping in his astonishment. " What 
Layton?" 

"What Layton, sir? Why, our clerk Layton. I ought to have had 
my doubts of him before ; but I suppose I had dust in my eyes. There 
are he and his wife entertaining the world ; their room crowded : a 
dozen people, very nearly, and she, Layton's wife, sitting down to the 
piano with pink bows in her hair." 

" What if she is ? " asked George. 

"You should see the supper-table, Mr. George," continued Hurde, 
too much annoyed with his own view of things to answer superfluous 
questions. " I can't tell what they have not upon it : silver, and glass, 
and decanters of wine. That's not all out of his salary. And Layton 
is taking to betting." 

" But what about the bonds? " impatiently questioned George. 

" Why — are not these so many proofs that Layton must have stolen 
the bonds and made money of them, sir? Where else could he get the 
means from? I have imparted my suspicions to Mr. Godolphin, and 
I expect he will follow them up, and have it fully investigated." 

" Then you are a fool for your pains, Hurde ! " retorted George in 
anger. " Layton no more took — I dare say Layton no more took those 
bonds than you did. You'll get into trouble, if you don't mind." 

"What, sir?" uttered Hurde, aghast. 

" That," curtly answered George, " if you ^ follow up ' any chimera 
that your brain chooses to raise, you must expect to get paid out for 
it. Let Layton alone. It will be time enough to look him up when 
suspicious circumstances arise to compromise hmi. The bonds are 
gone : but we shall not get them back again by making a stir in wrong 
quarters. The better plan will be to be quiet over it for a while." 

He resumed his quick pace and strode along, calling back a 
good night to Mr. Hurde. The latter gazed after him in undisguised 
astonishment. 

" Make no stir ! let the thing go on quietly ! " he articulated to him- 
self. " Who'd say such a thing but easy George Godolphin ! Not look 
up Layton? It's well for you, Mr. George, that you have men of 
business about you ! He'd let himself be robbed under his very nose, 
and never look out to see who did it. However will things go on, if 
the worst happens to his brother?" 



MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 



283 



It seemed that they were all saying the same — how would things 
go on, if the worst happened to Thomas Godolphin? 

For once in his Hfe of service the old clerk chose to ignore the wish 
— the command if you will — of Mr. George Godolphin. He did not let 
Lay ton alone. Quite the contrary. No sooner did Lay ton enter the 
Bank on the following morning, than Mr. Hurde dropped upon him. 
He had been watching for his entrance the last ten minutes ; for Mr. 
Layton arrived late, the result possibly of the past night's extensive 
scene of revelry. He had settled himself in his place behind the 
counter, when the chief clerk's voice arrested him. 

" I want you, Mr. Layton." 

Now, the fact was, Mr. Hurde, having slept upon the matter, arose 
perplexed by sundry doubts. The circumstances against Layton 
appeared by no means so conclusive to his mind as they had done the 
previous night. Therefore he deemed it good policy to speak to that 
suspected gentleman in a temperate spirit, and see whether he could 
fish anything out, rather than accuse him point-blank of having been 
the delinquent. 

" This is a nasty business," began he, when Layton reached him, in 
answer to his call. 

" What is ? " asked Layton. 

"What is?" repeated Mr. Hurde, believing that the loss must have 
affected every one connected with the establishment as it was affecting 
him, and doubting whether the indifferent answer was not a negative • 
proof of guilt. " What should it be, but this loss that has been spoken 
of in the Bank?" 

" Oh, that," returned Layton. " I dare say they will be found." 

" It places us all in a very awkward position, from myself downwards," 
went on Hurde, who was by no means a conjuror at the task he had 
undertaken. " There's no knowing what, or whom, Mr. Godolphin's 
suspicions may be turning to." 

"Rubbish!" retorted Layton. "It's not likely that Mr. Godolphin 
would begin to doubt any of us. There's no cause for doing so." 

" I don't know that," said Mr. Hurde significantly. " / am not so 
sure of some of you." 

Layton opened his eyes. He supposed Mr. Hurde must be alluding 
to some one clerk in particular ; must have a reason for it ; but he did 
not glance at himself. " Why do you say that? " he asked. 

" Well — it has occurred to me that some one or two of you may be 
living at a rate that your salary would neither pay for nor justify. You 
for one." 

" I ? " returned Layton. 

" Yes, you. Horses, and gigs, and wine, and company, and pianos ! 
They can't be managed out of a hundred a year." 

Layton was rather taken to. Not to make an unnecessary mystery 
over it, it may as well be mentioned that all these expenses which so 
troubled old Hurde, the clerk was really paying for honestly, but not 
out of his salary. An uncle of his wife's was allowing them an addition 
to their income, and this suppHed the additional luxuries. He resented 
the insinuation. 

" Whether they are managed out of it, or whether they are not, is no 



284 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



business of yours, Mr. Hurde," he said, after a pause. '^I shall not 
come to you to pay for them, or to the Bank either." 

" It is my business," replied the old clerk. It is Mr. Godolphin's 
business, which is the same thing. Pray, how long is it since you be- 
came a betting man? " 

" I am not a betting man," said Layton. 
Oh, indeed! You have not bet upon Cannonbar, I suppose? You 
never put into a sweepstakes in your life? — you are not in one now, are 
you? " 

Layton could only open his mouth in astonishment. He thought 
nothing less than that the spirits — then in the height of fashion — must 
have been at work. He was really no betting man ; had never been 
inclined that way : but latterly, to oblige some friend who bothered 
him over it, he had gone into a sweepstakes, and drawn the renowned 
horse, Cannonbar. And had followed it up by betting a pound upon 
him. 

" You see, Mr. Layton, your pursuits are not quite so inexpensively 
simple as you would wish to make them appear. These things happen 
to have come to my knowledge, and I have thought it my duty to 
mention them to Mr. Godolphin." 

Layton flew into a passion. Partly in soreness of feehng at finding 
he had been so closely looked after ; partly in anger that dishonesty 
could be associated with him ; and chiefly at hearing that he had been 
obnoxiously reported to Mr. Godolphin. " Have you told him^'' he 
foamed, " that you suspect me of robbing the strong-room ? " 

" Some one has robbed it," was Mr. Hurde's rejoinder. And has 
no doubt made money of the deeds he stole ! " 

" I ask if you have told Mr. Godolphin that you cast this suspicion 
to me ? " reiterated Layton, stamping his foot. 

" What if I have ? Appearances, in my opinion, would warrant my 
casting it to you." 

" Then you had better cast it to Mr. George Godolphin. There ! " 

But that they were completely absorbed in the dispute, their voices 
raised — at least. Lay ton's — they might have seen Mr. Godolphin close 
to them. In passing through the Bank from his carriage to his private 
room — for, in the untoward state of affairs, touching the loss, he had 
come betimes — he was attracted by the angry sounds, and turned 
towards them. 

"Is anything the matter ? " 

They looked round, saw Mr. Godolphin, and their voices and 
tempers dropped to a calm. Neither appeared inclined to answer the 
question, and Mr. Godolphin passed on. Another minute or two, and 
a message came from him, commanding the presence of the chief 
clerk. 

" Hurde," he began, " have you been speaking to Layton of what you 
mentioned to me last night ? " 

" Yes, sir, that's what it was. It put him into a passion." 
"He repudiates the suspicion, I suppose?" 

" Out-and-out, sir," was the answer of Mr. Hurde. " He says his wife 
has an income, independent of himself ; and that he put into a sweep- 
stakes lately to oblige a friend, and staked a sovereign on the horse he 



MR. LAYTON LOOKED UP*" 



285 



drew. He says it is all he ever staked in his life, and all he ever means 
to stake. He was saying this now, when you sent for me. I don't know 
what to think. He speaks honestly enough, to hsten to him." 

"What remark did I hear him making, relative to Mr. George 
Godolphin ? " 

"He ought to be punished for that," replied Mr. Hurde. " Better 
suspect Mr. George than suspect him, was what he said. I don't know 
what he meant, and I don't think he knew himself, sir." 

" Why did he say it ? " 

" When men are beside themselves with passion, sir, they say any- 
thing that comes uppermost. I asked him, after you went, what he 
meant by it, but he would not say any more." 

" I think you must be mistaken in suspecting Layton, Hurde. I 
thought so last night." 

" Well, sir, I may be," acknowledged Hurde. " I don't feel so sure 
of it as I did. But then comes the old puzzle again as to who could 
have taken the deeds. Layton would not have been so fierce but that 
he found the doubt had been mentioned to you," added Mr. Hurde, 
returning to the subject of the clerk's anger. 

" Did you tell him you had mentioned it ? " 

"Yes, sir, I did. It's not my way to conceal faults in a corner; and 
that the clerks know." 

Mr. Godolphin dropped the subject, and entered upon some general 
business. The old clerk remained with him about ten minutes, and 
then was at liberty to withdraw. 

" Send Layton to me," was the order as he went out. And the clerk 
appeared in obedience to it. 

Thomas Godolphin received him kindly, his manner and words had 
all the repose of quiet confidence. He believed Mr. Hurde to be com- 
pletely mistaken, to have erred through zeal, and he intimated as much 
to Mr. Layton. He might not have personally entered on the topic 
with him, but that Layton had heard that he had been accused to 
him. 

Layton's heart opened to his master. He was a well-disposed man 
when not exasperated. He frankly volunteered to Mr. Godolphin the 
amount of his wife's income and its source ; he stated that he was not 
living up to one penny more than he could afford ; and he distinctly 
denied being a betting man, either by practice or inclination — except 
for the one bet of a pound, which he had made incidentally. Altogether, 
his explanation was perfectly satisfactory to Mr. Godolphin. 

" Understand me, Mr. Layton, I did not, myself, cast the shghtest 
doubt upon you. To do so, never occurred to me." 

" I hope not, sir," was Layton's reply. " Mr. Hurde has his crotchets, 
and we, who are under him, must put up with them. His bark is worse 
than his bite : that much may be said for him." 

" Yes," said Thomas Godolphin. " You might fare worse, in that 
respect, than you do under Mr. Hurde. What was the meaning of the 
words you spoke relative to Mr. George Godolphin ? " 

Layton felt that his face was on fire. He muttered, in his confusion, 
something to the effect that it was a " slip of the tongue." 

" But you must be aware that such slips are quite unjustifiable. 



286 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Something must have induced you to say it. What may it have 
been?" 

" The truth is, I was in a passion when I said it," rephed Layton, 
compelled to speak. " I am very sorry." 

" You are evading my question," quietly replied Thomas' Godolphin. 
" I ask you what could have induced you to say it ? There must have 
been something to lead to the remark." 

" I did not mean anything, I declare, sir. Mr. Hurde vexed me by 
casting suspicion upon me ; and in the moment's anger, I retorted that 
he might as well cast it upon Mr. George Godolphin." 

Thomas Godolphin pressed the question. In Lay ton's voice when 
he had uttered it, distorted though it was with passion, his ears had 
detected a strange meaning. " But why upon Mr. George Godolphin ? 
Why more upon him than any other ? — upon myself, for instance ; or 
Mr. Hurde?" 

Layton was silent. Thomas Godolphin waited, his serene counte- 
nance fixed upon the clerk's. 

" I suppose I must have had in my head a remark I heard yesterday, 
sir," he slowly rejoined. " Heaven knows, though, I gave no heed to it; 
and how I came to forget myself in my anger, I don't know. I am sure 
I thought nothing of it, afterwards, until Mr. Hurde spoke to me this 
morning." 

" What was the remark ? " asked Mr. Godolphin. 

" Sir, it was that sporting man. Jolly, who said it. He fastened him- 
self on me last evening in going from here, and I could not get rid of 
him until ten at night. We were talking about different things : the 
great discount houses in London and one thing or another; and he 
said, incidentally, that Mr. George Godolphin had a good deal of paper 
in the market." 

Thomas Godolphin paused. " Did he assert that he knew this ? " 
He pretended to assert many things, as of his own knowledge. 
I asked him how he knew it, and he replied a friend of his had seen 
it — meaning the paper. It was all he said ; and how I came to repeat 
such a thing after him, I cannot tell. I hope you will excuse it, sir." 

" I cannot help excusing it," rephed Mr. Godolphin. " You said the 
thing, and you cannot unsay it. It was very wrong. Take care that 
you do not give utterance to it again." 

Layton withdrew, inwardly vowing that he never would. In point 
of fact, he had not attached much weight to the information; and 
could now have bitten his tongue out for repeating it. He wondered 
whether they could prosecute him for slander : or whether, if it came to 
the ears of Mr. George, /le would. Mr. Godolphin had met it with the 
considerate generosity ever characteristic of him ; but Mr. George was 
different from his brother. If ever a man in this world lived up to the 
Divine command, ^'Do as ye would be done by," that man was Thomas 
Godolphin. 

But the words, nevertheless, grated on Thomas Godolphin's ears. 
That George was needlessly lavish in expenditure, he knew : but not 
more so than his income allowed, if he chose to spend it all — unless he 
had secret sources of expense. A change came over Thomas Godol- 
phin's face as the idea suggested itself to his mind. Once in the train 



MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 



287 



of thought he could not stop it. Had George private channels for 
expenditure, of which the world knew nothing ? Could he have been 
using the Bank's money ? — could it be he who had taken Lord AveriFs 
deeds ? Like unto Isaac Hastings, the red flush of shame dyed Thomas's 
brow at the thought — shame for his own obtrusive imagination that 
could conjure up such a fancy against his brother. Thomas had never 
conjured it up, but for the suggestion gratuitously imparted to him by 
Layton. 

But he could not drive it down. No ; like the vision which had been 
gratuitously presented to the Reverend Mr. Hastings, and which he 
had been unable to dismiss, Thomas Godolphin could not drive it away. 
In a sort of panic — a panic caused by his own thoughts — he called for 
certain of the books to be brought to him. 

Some of those wanted were in George Godolphin's room. It was 
Isaac Hastings who was sent in there for them. 

" The books ! " exclaimed George, looking at Isaac. 

" Mr. Godolphin wants them, sir." 

It was quite out of the usual order for these books to come under the 
inspection (unless at stated times) of Mr. Godolphin. The very ask- 
ing for them implied a doubt on George — at least, it sounded so to that 
gentleman's all-conscious ears. He pointed out the books to Isaac in 
silence, with the end of his pen. 

Isaac Hastings carried them to Mr. Godolphin, and left them with 
him. Mr. Godolphin turned them rapidly over and over : they ap- 
peared, so far as he could see at a cursory glance, to be all right ; the 
balance on the credit side weighty, the available funds next door to 
inexhaustible, the Bank altogether flourishing. Thomas took greater 
shame to himself for having doubted his brother. While thus engaged, 
an observation suddenly struck him — that all the entries were in 
George's handwriting. A few minutes later, George came into the room. 

".George," he exclaimed, " how industrious you have become ! " 

" Industrious ! " repeated George, looking round for an explanation. " 

" All these entries are yours. Formerly you would not have done as 
much in a year." 

George laughed. " I used to be incorrigibly idle. It was well to 
turn over a new leaf." 

He — George — was going out of the room again, but his brother 
stopped him. " Stay here, George. I want you." 

Mr. Godolphin pointed to a chair as he spoke, and George sat down. 
George, who seemed rather inchned to have the fidgets, took out his 
penknife and began cutting at an offending nail. 

" Are you in any embarrassment, George ? " 

" In embarrassment ? I ! Oh dear, no." 

Thomas paused. Dropping his voice, he resumed in a lower tone, 
only just removed from a whisper : 

" Have you paper flying about the discount markets ? " 

George Godolphin's fair face grew scarlet. Was it with conscious 
emotion ?-— or with virtuous indignation ? Thomas assumed it to be 
the latter. How could he give it an opposite meaning from the in- 
dignant words which accompanied it. A burst of indignation which 
Thomas stopped. 



288 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Stay, George. There is no necessity to put yourself out. I never 
supposed it to be anything but false when a rumour of it reached my 
ear. Only tell me the truth quietly." 

Possibly George would have been glad to tell the truth, and get so 
much of the burden off his mind. But he did not dare. He might 
have shrunk from the terrible confession at any time to his kind, his 
good, his upright brother ; but things had become too bad to be told 
to him now. If the expose did come, why, it must, and there would 
be no help for it ; tell him voluntarily he could not. By some giant 
strokes of luck and policy, it might yet be averted : how necessary, 
then, to keep it from Thomas Godolphin ! 

" The truth is," said George, "that I don't know what you mean. To 
what rumour are you alluding ? " 

" It has been said that you have a good deal of paper in the market. 
The report was spoken, and it reached my ears." 

" It's not true. It's all an invention," cried George vehemently. 
" Should I be such a fool ? There are some people who live, it's my 
belief, by trying to work ill to others. Mr. Hastings was with me this 
morning. He had heard a rumour that something was wrong with 
the Bank." 

" With the Bank ! In what way ? " 

" Oh, of course, people must have gathered a version of the loss here, 
and put their own charitable constructions upon it," replied George, 
returning to his usual careless mode of speech. " The only thing to 
do is, to laugh at them." 

" As you can laugh at the rumour regarding youself and the bills ? " 
remarked Thomas. 

" As I can and do," answered easy George. Never more easy, more 
apparently free from care than at that moment. Thomas Godolphin, 
truthful himself, open as the day, not glancing to the possibility that 
George could be deliberately otherwise, felt all his confidence return to 
him. George went out, and Thomas turned to the books again. 

Yes. They were all in order, all right. With those flourishing 
statements before him, how could he have been so foohsh as to cast 
suspicion on George? Thomas had a pen in one hand, and the 
fore-finger of the other pointed to the page, when his face went white 
as one in mortal agony, and drops of moisture broke out upon his 
brow. 

The same pain, which had taken him occasionally before, had come to 
him again. Mortal agony in verity it seemed. He dropped the pen ; he 
lay back in his chair ; he thought he must have fallen to the ground. 
How long he so lay he could not quite tell : not very long probably, 
counted by minutes ; but counted by pain long enough for a lifetime. 
Isaac Hastings, coming in with a message, found him. Isaac stood 
aghast. 

" I am not very well, Isaac. Give me your arm. I will go and sit 
for a little time in the dining-room." 
" Shall I run over for Mr. Snow, sir ? " 

" No. I shall be better soon. In fact, I am better, or I could not 
talk to you. It was a sudden paroxysm." 

He leaned upon Isaac Hastings, and reached the dining-room. It 



MR. LAYTON "LOOKED UP." 



289 



was empty. Isaac left him there, and proceeded, unordered, to acquaint 
Mr. George Godolphin. He could not find him. 

" Mr. George has gone out," said a clerk. " Not two minutes 
ago." 

" I had better tell Maria, then," thought Isaac. "He does not look 
fit to be left alone." 

Speeding up to Maria's sitting-room, he found her there, talking to 
Margery. Miss Meta, in a cool brown-holland dress and a large straw 
hat, was dancing about in glee. She danced up to him. 

" I am going to the hayfield," said she. " Will you come ? " 

"Don't I wish I could !" he replied, catching her up in his arms. 
" It is fine to be Miss Meta Godolphin ! to have nothing to do all day 
but roll in the hay." 

She struggled to get down. Margery was waiting to depart. A 
terrible thing if Margery should have all the rolling to herself and 
Meta be left behind ! They went out, and he turned to his sister. 

" Maria, Mr. Godolphin is in the dining-room, ill. I thought I 
would come and tell you. He looks too ill to be left alone." 

" What is the matter with him ? " she asked. 

" A sudden pain," he said. " I happened to go into his room with a 
message, and saw him. I almost thought he was dead at first ; he 
looked so ghastly." 

Maria hastened down. Thomas, better then, but looking fearfully 
ill still, was leaning upon the arm of a couch. Maria went up and took 
his hand. 

" Oh, Thomas, you look very ill ! What is it ? " 

He gazed into her face with a serene countenance, a quiet smile. 
" It is only another of my warnings, Maria. I have been so much 
better that I am not sure but I thought they had gone for good." 

Maria drew forward a chair and sat down by him. "Warnings?" 
she repeated. 

" Of the end. You must be aware, Maria, that I am attacked with a 
fatal malady." 

Maria was not quite unaware of it, but she had never understood 
that a fatal termination was inevitable. She did not know but that he 
might five to be an old man. " Can nothing be done for you ? " she 
breathed. 

" Nothing." 

Her eyes glistened with the rising tears. " Oh, Thomas ! you must 
not die ! We could none of us bear to lose you. George could not do 
without you ; Janet could not ; I think I could not." 

He gently shook his head. " We may not pick and choose, Maria — 
who shall be left here, and who be taken. Those go sometimes who, 
seemingly, can be least spared." 

She could scarcely speak ; afraid lest her sobs should come, for her 
heart was aching. " But surely it is not to be speedy.^" she murmured. 
" You may live on a long while yet? " 

"The doctors tell me I may live on for years, if I keep myself 
quiet. I think they are wrong." 

" Oh, Thomas, then, you surely will ! " she eagerly said, her cheek 
flushing with emotion. " Who can have tranquilhty if you cannot ? " 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 19 



290 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



How ignorant they both were of the dark cloud looming overhead, 
ready even then to burst and send forth its torrent ! Tranquillity ! 
Tranquillity henceforth for Thomas Godolphin ! 



CHAPTER XVII. 
GONE ! 

The days passed on to a certain Saturday. An ominous Saturday for 
the Godolphins. Rumours, vague at the best, and therefore all the 
more dangerous, had been spreading in Prior's Ash and its neighbour- 
hood. Some said the Bank had had a loss ; some said the Bank was 
shaky ; some said Mr. George Godolphin had been lending money from 
the Bank funds ; some said their London agents had failed ; some 
actually said that Thomas Godolphin was dead. The various turns 
taken by the rumour were extravagantly marvellous : but the whole, 
combined, whispered ominously of danger. Only let public fear be 
thoroughly aroused, and it would be all over. It was as a train of 
powder laid, which only wants one touch of a hghted match to set it 
exploding. 

Remittances arrived on the Saturday morning, in the ordinary course 
of business. Valuable remittances. Sufficient for the usual demands 
of the day : but not sufficient for any unusual demands. On the 
Friday afternoon a somewhat untoward incident had occurred. A 
stranger presented himself at the Bank and demanded to see Mr. 
George Godolphin. The clerk to whom he addressed himself left him 
standing at the counter and went away : to acquaint, as the stranger 
supposed, Mr. George Godolphin : but, in point of fact, the clerk was 
not sure whether Mr. George was in or out. Finding he was out, he 
told Mr. Hurde, who went forward : and was taken by the stranger for 
Mr. George Godolphin. Not personally knowing (as it would appear) 
Mr. George Godolphin, it was a natural enough mistake. A staid old 
gentleman, in spectacles, might well be supposed by a stranger to be 
one of the firm. 

I have a claim upon you," said the stranger, drawing a piece of 
paper out of his pocket. Will you be so good as to settle it ? " 

Mr. Hurde took the paper and glanced over it. It was an accepted 
bill, George Godolphin's name to it. 

" I cannot say anything about this," Mr. Hurde was beginning : but 
the applicant interrupted him. 

" I don't want anything said, I want it paid." 

" You should have heard me out," rejoined Mr. Hurde. " I cannot 
say or do anything in this myself : you must see Mr. George Godolphin. 

He is out, but " 

Come, none of that gammon ! " interposed the stranger again, who 
appeared to have come prepared ta enter upon a contest. I was 
warned there'd be a bother over it : that Mr. George Godolphin would 
deny himself, and say black was white, if necessary. You can't do me^ 
Mr. George Godolphin." 



GONE! 



291 



" You are not taking me for Mr. George Godolphln ? " exclaimed the 
old clerk, uncertain whether to believe his ears. 

" Yes, I am taking you for Mr. George Godolphin," doggedly returned 
the man. " Will you take up this bill? " 

" I am not Mr. George Godolphin. Mr. George Godolphin will be 
in presently, and you can see him." 

It's a do," cried the stranger. " I want this paid. I know the 
claims there are against Mr. George Godolphin, and I have come 
all the way from town to enforce mine.- / don't want to come in 
with the ruck of his creditors, who'll get a sixpence in the pound, 
maybe." 

A very charming announcement to be made in a banking-house. 
The clerks pricked up their ears ; the two or three customers who were 
present turned round from the counters and listened for more : for the 
civil gentleman had not deemed it necessary to speak in a subdued 
tone. Mr. Hurde, scared out of his propriety, in mortal fear lest any- 
thing wot-se might come, hurried the man to a safe place, and left him 
there to await the entrance of Mr. George Godolphin. 

Whether this incident, mentioned outside (as it was sure to be), put 
the finishing touch to the rumours already in circulation, cannot be 
known. Neither was it known to those interested, what Mr. George 
did with his loud and uncompromising customer, when he at length 
entered and admitted him to an interview. It is possible that but 
for this untoward application, the crash might not have come quite 
so soon. , 

Saturday morning rose busily, as was usual at Prior's Ash. How- 
ever stagnant the town might be on other days, Saturday was always 
full of life and bustle. Prior's Ash was renowned for its grain market ; 
and dealers from all parts of the country flocked in to attend it. But 
on this morning some unusual excitement appeared to be stirring the 
town; natives and visitors. People stood about in groups, talking, 
listening, asking questions, consulting ; and as the morning hours wore 
on, an unwonted stream appeared to be setting in towards the house 
of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin. Whether the reports might be 
true or false, there would be no harm just to draw their money out and 
be on the safe side, was the mental remark made by hundreds. Could 
put it in again when the storm had blown over — if it proved to be only 
a false alarm. 

Under these circumstances, little wonder that the Bank was unusually 
favoured with visitors. One strange feature in their application was, 
that they all wanted to draw out money : not a soul came to pay any 
in. George Godolphin, fully aware of the state of things, alive to the 
danger, was present in person, his words gracious, his bearing easy, 
Jhis smile gay as ever. Only to look at him eased some of them of 
half their doubt. 

But it did not arrest their cheques, and old Hurde (whatever George 
might have done) grew paralyzed with fear. 

" For the love of Heaven, send for Mr. Godolphin, sir ! " he whispered. 
We can't go on long at this rate." 
" What good can he do ? " returned George. 

" Mr. George, he ought to be sent for ; he ought to know what's going 



292 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



on ; it is an imperative duty," remonstrated the clerk, in a strangely 
severe tone. " In fact, sir, if you don't send, I must. I am responsible 
to him." 

Send, then," said George. " I only thought to spare him vexation." 

Mr. Hurde beckoned Isaac Hastings. Fly for your life up to Ash- 
lydyat, and see Mr. Godolphin," he breathed in his ear. " Tell him 
there's a run upon the Bank." 

Isaac, passing through the Bank with apparent unconcern, easy and 
careless as if he had taken a leaf from the book of George Godolphin, 
did not let the grass grow under his feet when he was out. But, in- 
stead of turning towards Ashlydyat, he took the way to All Souls' 
Rectory. 

Arriving panting and breathless, he dashed in, and dashed against 
his brother Reginald, not five minutes arrived from a two years' 
absence at sea. Scarcely giving half a moment to a passing greeting, 
he was hastening from the room again in search of his father. 

" Do you call that a welcome, Isaac?" exclaimed Mrs. Hastings, in 
a surprised and reproving tone. "What's your hurry One would 
think you were upon an errand of life and death." 

"Sol am : it is httle short of it," he rephed in agitation. " Regy, 
don't stop me : you will know all soon. Is my father in his room ? " 

" He has gone out," said Mrs. Hastings. 

" Gone out ! " The words sounded like a knell. Unless his father 
hastened to the Bank, he might be a ruined man. " Where's he gone, 
mother 1 " 

" My dear, I have not the least idea. What is the matter with 
you ? " 

Isaac took one instant's dismayed counsel with himself : he had not 
time for more. He could not go off in search of him ; he must hasten 
to Ashlydyat. He looked up : laid summary hands upon his sister 
Rose, put her outside the door, closed it, and set his back against it. 

" Reginald, listen to me. You must go out and find my father. 
Search for him everywhere. Tell him there's a run upon the Bank, 
and he must make haste if he would find himself safe. Mother, could 
you look for him as well ? The Chisholms' money is there, you know, 
and it would be nothing but ruin." 

Mrs. Hastings gazed at Isaac with wondering eyes, puzzled with per- 
plexity. 

" Don't you understand, mother?" he urged. " / can't look for him : 
I ought not to have come out of my way as far as this. He must be 
found, so do your best, Reginald. Of course you will be cautious to 
say nothing abroad : I put Rose out that she might not hear this." 

Opening the door again, passing the indignant Rose without so 
much as a word, Isaac sped across the road, and dashed through some 
cross-fields and lanes to Ashlydyat. His detour had not hindered him 
above three or four minutes, for he went at the pace of a steam-engine. 
He considered it — as Hurde had said by Mr. Godolphin — an impera- 
tive duty to warn his father. Thomas Godolphin was not up when he 
reached Ashlydyat. It was only between ten and eleven o'clock. 

" I must see him, Miss Godolphin," he said to Janet. " It is abso- 
lutely necessary." 



GONE! 



293 



By words of by actions putting aside obstacles, he Stood within 
Thomas Godolphin^s chamber. The latter had passed a night of suffer- 
ing, its traces remaining on his countenance. 

I shall be down at the Bank some time in the course of the day, 
Isaac : though I am scarcely equal to it," he observed, as soon as he 
saw him. " Am I wanted for anything in particular ? " 

" I — I — am sent up to tell you bad news, sir," repHed Isaac, feehng 
the communication an unpleasant one to make. There's a run upon 
the Bank." 

" A run upon the Bank ! " repeated Thomas Godolphin, scarcely be- 
lieving the information. 

Isaac explained. A complete run. For the last hour, ever since the 
bank opened, people had been thronging in. 

Thomas paused. " I cannot imagine what can have led to it," he re- 
sumed. "Is my brother visible ? " 

" Oh yes, sir." 

" That is well. He can assure them all that we are solvent : that 
there is no fear. Have the remittances come down ? " 

" Yes, sir. But they will be nothing, Mr. Hurde says, with a run 
hke this." 

" Be so kind as to touch that bell for me, Isaac, to bring up my 
servant. I will be at the Bank immediately." 

Isaac rang the betl, left the room, and hastened back again. The 
Bank was fuller than ever : and its coffers must be getting low. 

" Do you happen to know whether my father has been in.^ " he whis- 
pered to Layton, next to whom he stood. 

Layton shook his head negatively. I think not. I have not 
observed him." 

Isaac stood upon thorns. He might not quit his post. Every time 
the doors swung to and fro — and they were incessantly swinging — he 
looked for Mr. Hastings. But he looked in vain. By-and-by Mr. 
Hurde came forward, a note in his hand. " Put on your hat, Layton, 
and take this round," said he. " Wait for an answer." 

" Let me take it," almost shouted Isaac. And, without waiting for 
assent or dissent, he seized the note from Mr. Hurde's hand, caught up 
his hat, and was gone. Thomas Godolphin was stepping from his car- 
riage as he passed out. 

Isaac had not, this time, to go out of his way. The delivery of 
the note would necessitate his passing the Rectory. " Rose ! " he 
uttered, out of breath with agitation as he had been before, " is papa 
not in ? " 

Rose was sitting there alone. " No," she answered. " Mamma and 
Reginald went out just after you. Where did you send them to ? " 

" Then they can't find him ! " muttered Isaac to himself, speeding off 
again, and giving Rose no answer. " It will be nothing but ruin." 

A few steps farther, and whom should he see but his father. The 
Reverend Mr. Hastings was coming leisurely across the fields, from the 
very direction which Isaac had previously travelled. He had probably 
been to the Pollard cottages: he did sometimes take that round. 
Hedges and ditches were nothing to Isaac in the moment's excitement, 
and he leaped one of each to get to him ; it cut off a step or two. 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Where were you going an hour ago ?" called out Mr. Hastings be- 
fore they met. " You were flying as swiftly as the wind." 

^' Oh, father ! " wailed Isaac ; did you see me ? " 

" What should hinder me ? I was at old Satcherley's." 
Tf you had only come out to me ! I would rather have seen you 
then than — than — heaven," he panted. There's a run upon the Bank. 
If you don't make haste and draw out your money, you'll be too late." 

Mr. Hastings laid his hand upon Isaac's arm. It maybe that he did 
not understand him ; for his utterance was rapid and full of emotion. 
Isaac, in his eagerness, shook it off. 

There's not a moment to lose, father. I don't fancy they can keep 
on paying long. Half the town's there." 

Without another word of delay, Mr. Hastings turned and sped along 
with a step nearly as fleet as Isaac's. When he reached the Bank the 
shutters were being put up. 

" The Bank has stopped," said an officious bystander to the Rector. 

It was even so. The Bank had stopped. The good old firm of Go- 
dolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin had — gone ! 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

MURMURS; AND CURIOUS DOUBTS. 

We hear now and again of banks breaking, and we give to the sufferers 
a passing sympathy ; but none can realize the calamity in its full and 
awful meaning, except those who are eye-witnesses of the distress it 
entails, or who own, unhappily, a personal share in it. When the 
Reverend Mr. Hastings walked into the Bank of Godolphin, Crosse, 
and Godolphin, he. knew that the closing of the shutters, then in actual 
process, was the symbol of a fearful misfortune, which would shake to 
its centre the happy security of Prior's Ash. The thought struck him, 
even in the midst of his own suspense and perplexity. 

One of the first faces he saw was Mr. Hurde's. He made his way to 
him. " I wish to draw my money out," he said. 

The old clerk shook his head. It's too late, sir." 

Mr. Hastings leaned his elbow on the counter, and approached his 
face nearer to the clerk's. " I don't care (comparatively speaking) for 
my own money : that which you have held so long ; but I must have 
refunded to me what has been just paid in to my account, but which is 
none of mine. The nine thousand pounds." 

Mr. Hurde paused ere he rephed, as if the words puzzled him. 

Nine thousand pounds ! " he repeated. ^' There has been no nine 
thousand pounds paid in to your account." 

" There has," was the reply of Mr. Hastings, given in a sharp, dis- 
tinct tone. " I paid it in myself, and hold the receipt." 

" Well, I don't know," said the clerk dubiously ; I had your account 
under my eye this morning, sir, and saw nothing of it. But there's no 
fear, Mr. Hastings, as I hope and trust," he added, confidentially. 



MURMURS; AND CURIOUS DOUBTS. 295 

" We have telegraphed for remittances, and expect a messenger down 
with them before the day's out." 

" You are closing the Bank," remarked Mr. Hastings in answering 
argument. 

" We are obliged to do that. We had not an inexhaustible fountain 
of funds here : and you see how people have been thronging in. On 
Monday morning I hope the Bank will be open again ; and in a con- 
dition to restore full confidence." 

Mr. Hastings felt a slight ray of reassurance. But he would have 
felt a greater had the nine thousand pounds been handed to him, there 
and then. He said so : in fact, he pressed the matter. How ineffec- 
tually, the next words of the clerk told him. 

" We have paid away all we had, Mr. Hastings," he whispered. 
" There's not a farthing left in the coffers." 

" You have paid the accounts of applicants in full, I presume ? " 
Yes : up to the time that the funds, in hand, lasted to do it." 

" Was that just ? — to the body of creditors ? " asked the Rector in a 
severe tone. p 

" Where was tiie help for it ? — unless we had stopped when the run 
began ? " 

"It would have been the more equable way-— fif you were to stop at 
all," remarked Mr. Hastings. 

" But we did not know we should stop. How was it possible to 
foresee that this paflic was about to arise ? Sir, all I can say is, I hope 
that Monday morning will see you, and every other creditor, paid in full." 

Mr. Hastings was pushed away from the counter. Panic-stricken 
creditors were crowding in, demanding to be paid. Mr. Hastings 
elbowed his way clear of the throng, and stood aside. Stood in the 
deepest perplexity and care. What if that money, entrusted to his 
hands, should be ^-one ? His brow grew hot at the thought. 

Not so hot as other brows there : brows of men gifted with less 
equable temperaments than that owned by the Rector of All Souls', 
One gentleman came in and worked his way to the front, the perspira- 
tion pouring off him, as from one in sharp agony. 

" I want my money! " he cried. " I shall be a bankrupt next week 
if I can't get my money." 

" I want my money ! " cried a quieter voice at his elbow ; and Mr. 
Hastings recognized the speaker as Barnaby, the corn-dealer. 

They received the same answer ; the answer which was being re- 
iterated in so many parts of the large room, in return to the same de- 
mand. The Bank had been compelled to suspend its payments for the 
moment. But remittances were sent for, and would be down, if not 
that day, by Monday morning. 

" When I paid in my two thousand pounds a few days ago, I asked, 
before I would leave it, whether it was all safe," said Mr. Barnaby, his 
tone one of wailing distress, though quiet still. But, quiet as it was, it 
was heard distinctly, for the people hushed their murmurs to listen to 
it. The general feeling, for the most part, was one of exasperation : and 
any downright good cause of complaint against the Bank and its manage- 
ment, would have been half as welcome to the unfortunate malcontents 
as their money. Mr. Barnaby continued : 



296 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



" I had heard a rumour that the Bank wasn't right. I heard it at 
Rutt's. And I came down here with the two thousand pounds in my 
hand, and saw Mr. George Godolphin in his private room. He told 
me it was all right : there was nothing the matter with the Bank : and 
I left my money. I am not given to hard words ; but, if I don't get it 
paid back to me, I shall say I have been swindled out of it." 

" Mr. George couldn't have told that there'd be this run upon the 
Bank, sir," replied a clerk, giving the best answer he could, the most 
plausible excuse : as all the clerks had to exert their wits to do, that 
day. " The Bank was all right then." 

If it was all right then, why isn't it all right now ? " roared a chorus 
of angry voices. " Banks don't get wrong in a day." 

Why did Mr. George Godolphin pass his word to me that it was 
safe ? " repeated Mr. Barnaby, as though he had not heard the refuting 
arguments. " I should not have left my money here but for that." 

The Rector of all Souls' stood his ground, and Hstened. But that 
George Godolphin was his daughter's husband, he would have echoed 
the complaint : that, but for his positive assertion of the Bank's solvency, 
he should not have left his money there — the trust-money of the little 
Chisholms. 

When the Bank had virtually closed, the order gone forth to put up 
the shutters, Mr. Godolphin had retired to an inner room. These 
clamorous people had pushed in since, in defiance of the assurance 
that business for the day was over Some of them demanded to see 
Mr. Godolphin. Mr. Hurde declined to introduce them to him. In 
doing so, he was acting on his own responsibility : perhaps to save that 
gentleman vexation, perhaps out of consideration to his state of health. 
He knew that his master, perplexed and astounded with the state of 
affairs, could only answer them as he did — that on Monday morning, 
all being well, the Bank would be open for business again. Did any 
undercurrent of doubt that this would be the case, run in Mr. Hurde's 
own heart ? If so, he kept it down, refusing to admit it even to him- 
self. One thing is certain . until that unpleasant episode of the pre- 
vious day, when the rough, unknown man had applied so loudly and 
inopportunely for money, Mr. Hurde would have been ready to answer 
with his own life for the solvency of the house of Godolphin. He had 
believed, not only in the ability of the house to meet its demands and 
liabilities, but to meet them, if needed, twice over. That man's words, 
reflecting upon Mr. George Godolphin, grated upon Mr. Hurde's ears 
at the time, and they had grated on his memory ever since. But, so 
far as he could do so, he had beaten them down. 

The crowd were got rid of. They became at length aware that to 
stay there would not answer their purpose in any way, would not do 
them good. They were fain to content themselves with that uncertain 
assurance, touching Monday morning, and went out, the doors being 
immediately barred upon them. If the catastrophe of the day was 
unpleasant for the principals, it was not much less unpleasant for the 
clerks : and they lost no time in closing the entrance when the oppor- 
tunity occurred. The only man who had remained was the Rector of 
All Souls'. 

I must see Mr. Godolphin," said he. 



MURMURS; AND CURIOUS DOUBTS. 



^97 



"You can see him, sir, of course," was Mr. Hurde's answer. Mr. 
Hastings was different from the mob just got rid of. He had, so to say, 
a right of admittance to the presence of the principals in a three-fold 
sense : as a creditor, as their spiritual pastor, and as a near connexion ; 
a right which Mr. Hurde would not presume to dispute. 

" Mr. Godolphin will see you, I am sure, sir," he continued, leading 
the way from the room towards Thomas Godolphin's. "He would 
have seen every soul that asked for him, of those now gone out. I 
knew that, and that's why I wouldn't let messages be taken to him. Of 
what use, to-day ? " 

Thomas Godolphin was sitting alone, very busily occupied, as it 
appeared, with books. Mr. Hastings cast a rapid glance round the 
room, but George was not in it. 

It was not two minutes ago that George had left it, and Mr. Hastings 
had escaped seeing him by those two minutes. George had stood there, 
condoling with Thomas upon the untoward event of the day, apparently 
as perplexed as Thomas was, to account for its cause : and apparently 
as hopeful ; nay, as positive ; that ample funds would be down, ere the 
day should close, to set all things right. 

" Mr. Godolphin, I have been asking Hurde for my money," were 
the first words uttered by the Rector. " Will you not give it me ? " 

Thomas Godolphin tuhied his earnest eyes, terribly sad then, on Mr. 
Hastings, a strangely yearning look in their light. " I wish I could," he 
answered. " But, even were it possible for us to do so — to give you a 
preference over others — it is not in our power. All funds in hand are 
paid out." 

The Rector did not go over the old ground of argument, as he had to 
Mr. Hurde — that it was unfair to give preference to the earher comers. 
It would answer no end now : and he was, besides, aware that he 
might have been among those earlier applicants, but for some unto- 
ward fate, which had taken him out of the way to the Pollard cottages, 
and restrained him from speaking to Isaac, when he saw him fly past. 
Whether Mr. Hastings would have had his nine thousand pounds is 
another matter. More especially if — as had been asserted by Mr. Hurde 
— the fact of the payment did not appear in the books. 

" Where is George ? " asked Mr. Hastings. 

"He has gone to the telegraph office," replied Thomas Godolphin. 
" There has been more than time for answers to arrive — to be brought 
here — since our telegrams went up. George grew impatient, and has 
gone to the station." 

" I wish to ask him how he could so have deceived me," resumed the 
Rector. "He assured me only yesterday, as it were, that the Bank was 
perfectly safe." 

" As he no doubt thought. Nothing would have been the matter, but 
for this run upon it. There's quite a panic in Prior's Ash, I am told ; 
but what can have caused it, I know not. Some deeds of value belong- 
ing to Lord Averil have been lost or mislaid, and the report may have 
got about : but why it should have caused this fear, is to me utterly 
incomprehensible. I would have assured you myself yesterday, had you 
asked me, that we were perfectly safe and solvent. That we are so still, 
will be proved on Monday morning." 



298 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Mr. Hastings bent forward his head. " It would be worse than ruin 
to me, Mr. Godolphin. I should be held responsible for the Chisholms' 
money ; should be called upon to refund it ; and I have no means of 
doing so. I dare not contemplate the position." 

" What are you talking of? " asked Thomas Godolphin. " I do not 
understand. We hold no money belonging to the Chisholms." 

" Indeed you do," was the reply. " You had it all. I paid in the 
proceeds of the sale, nine thousand and forty-five pounds." 

Mr. Godolphin paused at the assertion, looking at the Rector some- 
what as his head clerk had done. " When did you pay it in ? " he 
inquired. 

" A few days ago. I brought it in the evening, after banking hours. 
Brierly came over from Binham and paid it to me in cash, and I brought 
it here at once. It was a large sum to keep in the house. As things 
have turned out, I wish I had kept it," concluded the Rector, speaking 
plainly. 

" Paid it to George ? " 
Yes. Maria was present. I have his receipt for it, Mr. Godolphin," 
added the Rector. You almost appear to doubt the fact. As Hurde 
did, when I spoke to him just now. He said it did not appear in the 
books." 

" Neither does it," replied Thomas Godolphin. " But I do not doubt 
you, now that you tell me of the transaction. George must have omitted 
to enter it." 

That omission " began to work in the minds of both, more than 
either cared to tell. Thomas Godolphin was marvelling at his brother's 
reprehensible carelessness : the Rector of All Souls' was beginning to 
wonder whether " carelessness " was the deepest sin about to be laid 
open in the conduct of George Godolphin. Very unpleasant doubts, 
he could scarcely tell why, were rising up within him. His keen eye 
searched the countenance of Thomas Godolphin : but he read nothing 
there to confirm his doubts. On the contrary, that countenance, save 
for the great sorrow and vexation upon it, was, as it ever was, clear and 
open as the day. Not yet, not quite yet, had the honest faith of years, 
reposed by Thomas Godolphin in his brother, been shaken. Very, very 
soon was it to come : not the faith to be simply shaken, but rudely 
destroyed : blasted for ever ; as a tree torn up by lightning. 

It was useless for Mr. Hastings to remain. All the satisfaction to be 
obtained was — the confidently-expressed hope that Monday would set 
things straight. "It would be utter ruin to me, you know," he said, as 
he rose. 

" It would be ruin to numbers," replied Thomas Godolphin. " I pray 
you, do not glance at anything so terrible. There is no cause for it : 
there is not indeed : our resources are ample. I can only say that I 
should wish I had died long ago, rather than have lived to witness such 
ruin, brought upon others, through us." 

Lord Averil was asking to see Thomas Godolphin, and entered his 
presence as Mr. Hastings left it. He came in, all impulse. It appeared 
that he had gone out riding that morning after breakfast, and knew 
nothing of the tragedy then being enacted in the town. Do you think 
the word too strong a one— tragedy .^^ Wait and see its effects. In 



MURMURS ; AND CURIOUS DOUBTS. 299 



passing the Bank on his return, Lord Averil saw the shutters up. In the 
moment's shock, his fears flew to Thomas Godolphin. He forgot that 
the death, even of the principal, would not close a Bank for business. 
Lord Averil, having nothing to do with business and its ways, may have 
been excused the mistake. 

He pulled short up, and sat staring at the Bank, his heart beating, 
his face growing hot. Only the day before he had seen Thomas Godol- 
phin in health (comparatively speaking) and life ; and now, could he be 
dead ? Casting his eyes on the stragglers gathered on the pavement 
before the banking doors — an unusual number of stragglers, though 
Lord Averil was too much occupied with other thoughts to notice the 
fact — he stooped down and addressed one of them. It happened to be 
Rutt the lawyer, who in passing had stopped to talk with the groups 
gathered there. Why did groups gather there ? The Bank was closed 
for the rest of the day, nothing to be obtained from its aspect but blank 
walls and a blank door. What good did it do to people to halt there 
and stare at it ? What good does it do them to halt before a house 
where murder has been committed, and stare at that ? , 

The Viscount Averil bent from his horse to Rutt the lawyer. ^' What 
has happened Is Mr. Godolphin dead.^ " 

" It is not that, my lord. The Bank has stopped." 

" The — Bank — has stopped ? " repeated Lord Averil, pausing 

between each word, in his astonishment, and a greater pause before the 
last. 

" Half an hour ago, my lord. There has been a run upon it this 
morning ; and now they have paid out all their funds, and are obliged 
to stop." 

Lord Averil could not recover his consternation. " What occasioned 
the run ? " he asked. 

"Well — your lordship must understand that rumours are abroad. 
I heard them, days ago. Some say, now, that they have no foundation, 
and that the Bank will resume business on Monday as usual, when 
remittances arrive. The telegraph has been at work pretty well for the 
house the last hour or so," concluded Mr. Rutt, 

Lord Averil leaped from his horse, gave it to a lad to hold, and Avent 
round to the private door. Thence he was admitted, as you have seen, 
to the presence of Thomas Godolphin. Not of his own loss had he 
come to speak — the sixteen thousand pounds involved in the disappear- 
ance of the deeds — and which, if the Bank ceased its payments, might 
never be refunded to him. No. Although he saw the premises closed, 
and heard that the Bank had stopped, not a doubt crossed Lord Averil 
of its real stability. That the run upon it had caused its temporary 
suspension, and that all would be made right on the Monday, as 
Mr. Rutt had suggested, he fully believed. The Bank held other 
deeds of Lord Averil's, and a little money : not much ; his present 
account was not great. The deeds were safe ; the money might be 
imperilled. 

" I never heard of it until this moment," he impulsively cried, clasp- 
ing the hand of Thomas Godolphin. " In returning now from a ride, 
I saw the shutters closed, and learned what had happened. There has 
been a run upon the Bank, I understand." 



300 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" Yes," replied Thomas, in a subdued tone, that told of mental pain* 
" It is a very untoward thing." 
" But what induced it ? " 

" I cannot imagine. Unless it was the rumour, which has no doubt 
spread abroad, of the loss of your deeds. I suppose it was that : 
magnified in telhng, possibly, into the loss of half the coffers of the Bank. 
Panics have arisen from far slighter causes ; as those versed in the 
money market could tell you." 

But how foolish people must be ! " 

" When a panic arises, people are not themselves," remarked Thomas 
Godolphin. " One takes up the fear from another, as they take an 
epidemic. I wish our friends and customers had had more confidence 
in us. But I cannot blame them." 

" They are saying, outside, that business will be resumed." 

" Yes. As soon as we can get remittances down. Sunday intervenes, 
and of course nothing can be done until Monday." 

" Well, now, my friend, can I help you ? " rejoined Lord Averil. " I 
am a richer man than the world gives me credit for ; owing to the in- 
expensive life I have led, since that one false step of mine, when I was 
in my teens. I will give you my signature to any amount. If you can 
contrive to make it known, it may bring people to their senses." 

Thomas Godolphin's generous spirit opened to the proof of con- 
fidence : it shone forth from his quiet dark-grey eyes as he gazed at 
Lord Averil. 

" Thank you sincerely for the kindness. I shall gratefully remember 
it to the last day of my life. An hour or two ago I do not know but 
I might have availed myself of it : as it is, it is too late. The Bank is 
closed for the day, and nothing more, good or bad, can be done until 
Monday morning. Long before that, I expect assistance will have 
arrived." 

" Very well. But if you want further assistance, you know where 
to come for it," concluded Lord Averil. " I shall be in Prior's Ash. 
Do you know," he continued, in a musing sort of tone, " since I 
renounced that proposed sea expedition, I have begun to feel more 
like a homeless man than I ever yet did. If there were a desirable 
place for sale in this neighbourhood, I am not sure but I should pur- 
chase it, and settle down." 

Thomas Godolphin gave only a slight answer. His own business was 
enough for him to think of, for one day. Lord Averil suddenly remem- 
bered this, and said something to the effect, but he did not yet rise to 
go. Surely he could not, at that moment, contemplate speaking to 
Mr. Godolphin about Cecil ! Another minute, and Mr. Hurde had 
come into the room, bearing a telegraphic despatch in his hand. 

^' Has Mr. George brought this ? " Thomas inquired, as he took it. 

" No, sir. It came by the regular messenger." 

" George must have missed him then," was Thomas Godolphin's 
mental comment. 

He opened the paper. He cast his eyes over the contents. It was 
a short message ; only a few words in it, simple and easy to compre- 
hend : but Thomas Godolphin apparently could not understand it. 
Such at least was the impression conveyed to Lord Averil and Mr. 



MURMURS; AND CURIOUS DOUBTS. 



301 



Hurde. Both were watching him, though without motive. The clerk 
waited for any orders there might be to give him : Lord Averil sat on, 
as he had been sitting. Thomas Godolphin read it three times, and 
then glanced up at Mr. Hurde. 

" This cannot be for us," he remarked. " Some mistake must have 
been made. Some confusion, possibly, in the telegraph office in town ; 
and the message, intended for us, has gone elsewhere." 

" That could hardly be, sir," was Mr. Hurde's reply. 

In good truth, Thomas Godolphin himself thought it could " hardly 
be." But — if the message had come right — what did it mean ? Mr. 
Hurde, racking his brains to conjecture the nature of the message that 
was so evidently disturbing his master, contrived to catch sight of two 
or three words at the end : and they seemed to convey an ominous 
intimation that there were no funds to be forthcoming. 

Thomas Godolphin was disturbed ; and in no measured degree. His 
hands grew cold and his brow moist, as he gazed at the despatch in its 
every corner. According to its address, it was meant for their house, 
and in answer to one of the despatches he had sent up that morning. 
But — its contents ! Surely they could not be addressed 'to the good old 
house of Godolphin, Crosse, and Godolphin ! 

A moment or two of wavering hesitation and then he drew to him a 
sheet of paper, wrote a few words, and folded it. " Take this yourself 
with all speed to the telegraph station," he said to Mr. Hurde. Send 
the message up at once, and wait there for the answer. It will not be 
long in coming. And if you meet Mr. George, tell him I wish to see 
him." 

And now I dare say you will be glad to get rid of me," remarked 
Lord Averil, as Mr. Hurde hastened out. " This is not a day to intrude 
upon you for long ; and I dare say the fellow to whom I intrusted my 
horse is thinking something of the sort." 

He shook hands cordially and went away, leaving Thomas Godolphin 
to battle alone with his care. Ah me ! no human aid, henceforth, could 
help him, by so much as a passing word, with the terrible battle already 
set in. God alone, who had been with Thomas Godolphin through 
life, could whisper to him a word of comfort, could shed down a few 
drops of sustaining strength, so that he might battle through and bear. 
That God had been with him, in the midst of the deep sorrows He had 
seen fit to cast upon him, Thomas knew : he knew that He would be 
with him always, even unto the end. 

^' You had better accept my offer of assistance," Lord Averil turned 
back to say. 

" No," broke from Thomas Godolphin in a sharp tone of pain, very 
different from the calm, if grateful, answer he had previously given to 
the same proposition. " What sort of justice would it be, if I robbed 
you to pay the claims of others t " 

" You can refund me when the panic's over," returned the viscount, 
somewhat surprised at the nature of the reply. 

Yes. But — but — it might be a risk," was the rejoinder, given with 
unwonted hesitation. " In a crisis, such as this, it is, I believe, impos- 
sible to foresee what the end may be. Thank you greatly, Averil, all 
the same." 



302 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Mr. Hurde was not very long before he returned, bringing with him 
an answer to the last message. Colder and moister became Thomas 
Godolphin's brow as he read it ; colder and colder grew his hand. It 
appeared to be only a confirmation of the one received before. 
I cannot understand this," he murmured. 

Mr. Hurde stood by. That some ominous fear had arisen, he saw. 
He was an old and faithful servant of the house, entirely devoted to 
its interests. His master said a few words of explanation to him. 

They aroused Mr. Hurde's fears. Had some deep-laid treachery been 
at work ? — some comprehensive scheme of duplicity been enacting for 
some time past, making a bankrupt house appear to be still a flourish- 
ing concern? If so, it could only have been done by falsifying the 
books : and that could only have been done by George Godolphin. 

Mr. Hurde did not dare to give vent to his thoughts. Indeed, he 
did not seriously contemplate that they could be realities. But, in the 
uncertainty created, he deemed himself perfectly justified in mentioning 
to Mr. Godolphin the untoward occurrence of the previous day ; the 
rude demand of the man for money, and the unpleasant expressions 
he had used of the state of Mr. George Godolphin's affairs. He was 
clearing his throat to begin in his usual slow fashion, when Mr. 
'Godolphin spoke. 

I shall go to town by the first train, Hurde. The express. It will 
pass through in half an hour." 

Then Mr. Hurde told his tale. It did not tend to reassure Thomas 
Godolphin. 

He rang the bell. He caused George to be inquired for. But George 
was not in the house. He had not returned since that errand of his, 
ostensibly to the telegraph ofiice. 

Thomas could not wait. He wrote a note to George, and sealed it. 
He then charged a servant with a message for Miss Godolphin at 
Ashlydyat, gave a few directions to Mr. Hurde, proceeded on foot to 
the station without further preparations, and started on his journey. 

Started on his journey, strange doulDts and fears making havoc of 
his beating heart. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

BOBBING JOAN. 

Maria Godolphin was in her own pretty sitting-room upstairs. She 
had been sitting there ever since breakfast : had not yet stirred from 
it, though noon had passed, for she was very busy. Not fond of sewing 
in a general way, she was plying her needle quickly now : some work 
of fine intricate braiding, to be converted into a frock for Miss Meta. 
Maria worked as if her heart were in it : it was for her child. 

The door was closed, the window was open to the summer air. The 
scent of the flowers ascended from the garden below, the gentle hum of 
the insects was heard as they sported in the sun, the scene altogether 
was one of perfect tranquillity. There was an air of repose about the 



BOBBING JOAN. 



303 



room, about Maria in her cool muslin dress, about the scene altogether. 
Who, looking at it, would have suspected the commotion that was 
being enacted — or that had been enacted so recently — in another part 
of the house ? 

It is a positive fact that Maria knew nothing yet of the grievous 
calamity which had fallen — the stoppage of the Bank. The servants 
knew it fast enough ; were more correctly acquainted with its details 
(to hear them speak) than the Bank itself. They stood about in 
groups and talked in whispers, letting their work go. But not one of 
them had presumed to acquaint their unconscious mistress. They 
knew how ignorant of it all she was : they felt certain that not a 
suspicion of anything going wrong had ever crossed her. Indeed, it 
had not crossed their own inquisitive selves, and the blow had burst 
upon them that morning as a thunder-clap. 

As a thunder-clap, it was soon to burst upon Maria. A few minutes' 
respite yet, ere it should come. She certainly had heard the visitors'- 
bell ring three or four times, which was somewhat unusual, considering 
that no message for her had followed upon it. That bell in the day- 
time generally heralded guests for herself. Once, when Pierce came 
in, bringing a small parcel for her from the bookseller's, Maria had 
inquired who it was that had just rung at the hall-door. Pierce 
answered that it was Lord Averil ; his lordship had asked to see Mr. 
Godolphin. Maria could not "remember afterwards, when looking back 
on the circumstances of the day, whether or not it had occurred to her 
to wonder why Lord Averil should come to the private door, when his 
visit was to the Bank and Thomas Godolphin. Pierce ventured not 
another word. He put down the parcel and hurried off, very much 
after the manner of one who is afraid of being asked questions. 

And yet, the man, in his sober judgment, believed that there was 
little danger of any troublesome questions being put by his mistress. 
There was none. Of all people living, none were so completely un- 
conscious that anything wrong was looming, as Mrs. George Godol- 
phin. If there was one house in the kingdom more safe, more staid, 
more sohd than other houses, she beheved it to be theirs. Yes, it was 
a notable fact, that Maria, sitting there so serenely tranquil, knew 
nothing of what was stirring Prior's Ash, from one end of it to the 
other, to the highest point of excitement. Perhaps it would not be 
too much to say that she was the last person in it whom the news 
reached. 

The work — her work, that she held in her hand — was approaching 
completion, and she looked at it with fond eyes. She had been two or 
three weeks over it, sitting steadily to it several of the days. It was 
very pretty, certainly ; a new sort of work just come up, done with a 
new sort of braid; and would, beyond question, look charming on Miss 
Meta. Now and then Maria would be visited with doubtful visions as 
to whether the thing would wash." That is, wash and look as well 
afterwards as it did now. She could only hope for the best, and that 
Miss Meta would be upon her good behaviour when wearing it, and 
not spoil it beyond redemption the first time it was on. 

" I hope I shall have enough braid," deliberated Maria, comparing 
the small portion of work, yet remaining to do, with the braid in hand. 



304 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" I wish I had told Margery to bring me in another piece ; she will pass 
the shop. I must send, if I find it running short. If I am not interrupted 
to-day, I shall finish it." 

One interruption occurred almost as Maria was speaking. The en- 
trance of her husband. With him in the room she was continually 
looking off to talk, if she did not quite lay the work down ; altogether 
she did not get on as fast as when alone. He had just come in from 
that excursion to the telegraph office. Had he been there ? Or had 
his supposed visit been but a plea set forth, an excuse to get out of his 
brother's presence, away from that troubled scene, the Bank ? 

There was no knowing. George never said how it was, then or after- 
wards. Never said whether his return now was the result of his having 
accidentally seen his brother at a distance, walking along at a quick 
pace. He came in by the hall-door (there was no other way open 
to-day), letting himself in with his latch-key. Mr. Hurde was still 
there, posting or doing something or other to a pile of books. 

" Has Mr. Godolphin gone for the day? " asked George. 

" Mr. Godolphin's gone to London, sir.'' 

" To London ? " echoed George, in surprise. " What is taking him 
there ? " 

" Some queer messages have come down by telegraph," returned 
Mr. Hurde, pushing his spectacles up, and looking George full in the 
face. " Mr. Godolphin could not understand them, and he has gone 
to town." 

George did not make any observation for a minute. Was he afraid 
to make further inquiries ? " What were the messages ? " he presently 
asked. 

" Mr. Godolphin did not show them to me, sir," was the answer, 
spoken, or George fancied it, in a curt tone. " He said enough to tell 
me that there appeared to be some great cause for disquiet — and he has 
gone to see about it. He left a note in the parlour, sir, for you." 

Mr. Hurde buried his face over his books again, a genteel hint, per- 
haps, that he wished the colloquy to end — if his master would be pleased 
to take it. George entered the parlour and caught up the note. 

" ' Be at home to callers ; answer all inquiries,' " repeated he, reciting 
the last words of the note. " 1 wish Thomas may get it ! Now that 
the explosion has come. Prior's Ash is no place for me." 

Many and many a day had there intruded into George Godolphin's 
mind a vision of this very time, when the " explosion " should have 

come." He had never dwelt upon it. He had driven it away from 
him to the utmost of his power. Perhaps it is not in the nature of 
those, whose course of conduct is such as to bring down these explo- 
sions as a natural sequence, to anticipate with uncomfortable minuteness 
the period of their arrival, or their particular manner of meeting them. 
Certainly George Godolphin had not done so ; but there had been ever 
an undercurrent of conviction lying dormant in his heart, that he should 
not face it in person. When the brunt of the scandal was over, then he 
might return to home and Prior's Ash : but he would not wait there to 
be present at its fall. 

He crushed Thomas Godolphin's note into his pocket, and stood up- 
right on the hearthrug to think. He knew that, if treated according 



BOBBING jOAN. 



305 



to his deserts, this would be the last friendly note written him by his 
brother for many a day to come. Thomas was then being whirled on 
his way to the full knowledge of his, George's, delinquency ; or, if not 
to the full knowledge, which perhaps could only be unfolded by de- 
grees, as we turn the pages of a book, to quite enough of it. It was 
time for him to be off now. If inquisitive callers must be seen, Hurde 
could see them. 

Conscience makes cowards of us all : a saying, not more trite than 
true. Very absurd cowards it makes of us now and then. As George 
Godolphin stood there, revolving \\\^ pros and co7is of his getting away, 
the ways and means of his departure, a thought flashed into his mind 
as to whether he should be allowed to depart, if an inkling of his exodus 
got wind. It actually did so ; unfounded as was any cause for it. The 
fear came from his lively conscience ; but from nothing else. He might 
be seen at the railway station, and stopped : he might " Tush ! " in- 
terrupted George angrily, coming out of the foolish fear and returning 
to his sober senses. " People here know nothing yet, beyond the bare 
fact that the Bank has suspended payment. They can't arrest a man 
for that." 

But, how about ways and means ? Ay, that was a greater necessity 
for consideration. The money in George's pockets amounted — / am 
telling you truth — to three and sixpence. With all his faults, he was 
open-hearted, open-handed. He had been weak, imprudent, extrava- 
gant ; he had enacted a course of deceit to his brother and to the world, 
forced to it (he would have told you) by his great need and his great 
dread ; he had made use of other men's property : he had, in short, 
violated those good rules that pubHc lamentation is made for every 
Sunday — he had left undone those things that he ought to have done, 
and he had done those things that he ought not to have done; but it 
was not for himself (in one sense) that he had done this. It was not 
for himself, selfishly. He had not been laying up in store for the evil 
day, or put by money to serve his wants when other moneys should fail. 
As long as he had money he spent it : whether in paying claims, or in 
making charming presents to Charlotte Pain and similarly esteemed 
friends — elegant little trifles that of course cost nothing, or next to it ; 
or in new dolls for Meta ; or in giving a five-pound note to some poor 
broken-down tradesman, who wanted to get upon his legs again. In 
one way or other the money had been spent ; not a single shilling had 
George hoarded up ; so, in that sense, though in that alone, he had been 
neither selfish nor dishonest. 

And, now that the crash had come, he was without means. He had 
not so much as the fare in his pocket that would suffice to convey him 
away from the troubled scene, which the next week would evidently 
bring forth. The Bank funds were exhausted : so he had not them to 
turn to. But, get away he must : and, it seemed to him, the sooner the 
better. 

He came forth through the door separating the Bank from the 
dwelling, and entered the dining-room. The tray was laid for luncheon, 
and for Meta's dinner: but no one was in the room. He went up- 
stairs to Maria's sitting-room. She was there, quietly at work : and 
she looked up at him with a glad smile of welcome. Her attitude of 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 20 



3o6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



repose, her employment, the expression of calm happiness pervading 
her countenance, told George that she was as yet in ignorance of what 
had occmTcd. 

" What money have you in your purse, Maria ? " asked he, speaking 
carelessly. 

Maria laughed. "Why, none," she answered quite merrily. "Or 
as good as none. I have been telling you ever so long, George, that I 
must have some money ; and I must. A good deal, I mean ; to pay 
my housekeeping bills." 

" Just see what you have," returned George. " I want to borrow it." 

Maria put her hand into her pocket, and then found that her purse 
was in her desk. She gave the keys to George, and asked him to 
unlock it. 

The purse was in a small compartment, lying on a ten-pound note. 
In the purse there proved to be a sovereign and seven shillings. George 
put the money and the purse back again, and took up the note. 

" You sly girl ! " cried he, pretending to be serious. " To tell me you 
had no money ! What special cadeaii is this put by for ? A gold chain 
for Meta?" 

" That is not mine, George. It is old Dame Bond's. I told you 
about it, if you remember." 

" I'll take this," said George, transferring the note to his pocket. 

"Oh no, George; don't take that!" exclaimed Maria. "She may 
come for it at any hour. I promised to return it to her Avhenever she 
asked for it." 

" My dear, you shall have it again. She vv^on't come to-day." 

" Why can you not get a note from the Bank instead of taking that ? " 

George made no answer. He turned into his bedroom. Maria 
thought nothing of the omission : she supposed his mind to be pre- 
occupied. In point of fact, she thought little of his taking the note. 
With coffers full (as she supposed) to turn to, borrowing a ten-pound 
note seemed an affair of no moment. 

She sat on about ten minutes, hard at work. George remained in 
his bedroom, occupied (as it appeared to Maria) in opening and shut- 
ting various drawers. Somewhat curious as to what he could be 
doing, she at length rose from her seat and looked in. He was packing 
a large portmanteau. 

" Are you going out, George ? " she exclaimed in surprise. 

" For a few days. Business is calling me to town. Look here, 
Maria. I shall take nothing with me, beyond my small black leather 
hand-case ; but you can send this by one of the men to the station 
to-night. It must come after me." 

" What a very sudden determination, George ! " she cried. "' You did 
not say anything about it this morning." 

" I did not know then I should have to go. Don't look sad, child. 
I shan't be long away." 

" It seems to me that you are always going away now, George," she 
observed, her tone as sad as her looks. 

" Business must be attended to," responded George, shaking out a 
coat that he was about to fold. " I don't in the least covet going, I 
assure you, Maria." 



BOBBING JOAN. 



307 



What more she would have said, was interrupted by a noise. Some 
one had entered the sitting-room with much commotion. Maria re- 
turned to it, and saw Meta and Margery. 

Meta had been the whole morning long in the hayfield. Not the 
particular hayfield already mentioned ; that one was cleared of hay 
now ; but to some other hayfield, whose cocks were in full bloom — if 
such an expression may be used in regard to hay. There were few 
things Miss Meta liked so much as a roll in the hay; and, so long as 
cocks were to be found in the neighbourhood, Margery would be coaxed 
over to take her to them. Margery did not particularly dislike it her- 
self. Margery's rolling days were over ; but, seated at the foot of one 
of the cocks, her knitting in hand, and the child in view, Margery found 
the time pass agreeably enough. As she had found it, this day : and 
the best proof of it was, that she stayed beyond her time. Miss Meta's 
dinner was waiting. 

Miss Meta was probably aware of the fact by sundry inward warn- 
ings. She had gone flying into her mamma's sitting-room, tugging at 
the strings of her hat, which had got into a knot. Margery had flown 
in, almost as quickly ; certainly in greater excitement. 

"Is it true, ma'am?" she gasped out, the moment she saw 
Maria. 

" Is what true?" inquired Maria. 

" That the Bank has broke. When I saw the shutters up and the 
door barred, for all the world 'as if everybody in the house was dead, 
you might have knocked me down with a feather. There's quite a crowd 
round : and one of 'em told me the Bank had broke." 

George came out of his bedroom. " Take this child to the nursery, 
and get her ready for her dinner," said he in the quick, decisive, 
haughty manner that he now and then used, though rarely to 
Margery. 

Margery withdrew with the child, and George looked at his wife. 
She was standing in perplexity ; half aghast, half in disbelief; and she 
turned her questioning eyes on George. 

But for those words of Margery's, whose sound had penetrated to his 
bedroom, would he have said anything to Maria before his departure ? 
It must remain a question. Islow he had no resource left but to 
tell her. 

" The fact is, Maria, we have had a run upon the Bank this morning; 
have been compelled to suspend payment. For the present," added 
George, vouchsafing to Maria the hopeful view of the case which his 
brother, in his ignorance, had taken. 

She did not answer. She felt too much dismayed. Perhaps, in her 
mind's confusion, she could not yet distinctly understand. George 
placed her in a chair. 

"How scared you look, child! There's no cause for that. Such 
things happen every day." 

" George— George ! " she reiterated, struggling as it were for utter- 
ance : " do you mean that the Bank has failed ? I don't think I under- 
stand." 

" For the present. Some cause or other, that we can none of us get 
to the bottom of, caused a run upon us to-day." 



3^8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



" A run ? You mean that people all came together, wanting to with- 
draw their money ? " 

"Yes. We paid as long as our funds held out. And then we 
closed." 

She burst into a distressing flood of tears. The shock, from un- 
clouded prosperity — she had not known that that prosperity was fictitious 
— to ruin, to disgrace, was more than she could bear calmly. George 
felt vexed. It seemed as if the tears reproached him. 

" For goodness' sake, Maria, don't go on like that," he testily cried. 
" It will blow over; it will be all right." 

But he put his arm round her in spite of his hasty words. Maria 
leaned her face upon his bosom and sobbed out her tears upon it. He 
did not like the tears at all; he spoke quite crossly ; and Maria did her 
best to hush them. 

" What will be done ? " she asked, choking down the rebellious sobs 
that rose in spite of her. 

" Don't trouble yourself about that. I have been obliged to tell you, 
because it is a thing that cannot be concealed ; but it will not affect 
your peace and comfort, I hope. There's no cause for tears." 

" Will the Bank go on again 1 " 

" Thomas has gone up to London, expecting to bring funds down. 
In that case it will open on Monday morning." 

How could he tell it her ? Knowing as he did know, and he alone, 
that through his deep-laid machinations, there were no longer funds 
available for the Bank or for Thomas Godolphin. 

" Need you go to London," she asked in a wailing tone, " if Thomas 
has gone ? I shall be left alone." 

" I must go. There's no help for it." 

" And which day shall you be back again ? By Monday ? " 
" Not perhaps by Monday. Keep up your spirits, Maria. It will be 
all right." 

Meta came bursting in. She was going down to dinner. Was 
mamma coming to luncheon ? 

No, mamma did not want any. Margery would attend to her. 
George picked up the child and carried her into his room. In his 
drawers he had found some trifling toy > brought home for Meta weeks 
ago, and forgotten to be given to her. It had lain there since. It was 
one of those renowned articles, rarer now than they once were, called 
Bobbing Joan. George had given sixpence for it. A lady, with a 
black head and neck, a round body, and no visible legs. He put it on 
the top of the drawers, touched it, and set it bobbing at Meta. 

She was all delight ; she stretched out her hands for it eagerly. But 
George, neglecting the toy, sat down on a chair, clasped the child in 
his arms, and showered upon her more passionately heartfelt embraces 
than perhaps he had ever given to living mortal, child or woman. He 
did not keep her : the last long lingering kiss was pressed upon her rosy 
lips, and he put her down, handed her the toy, and bade her run and 
show it to mamma. 

Away she went ; to mamma first, and then in search of Margety. 

Maria went into the bedroom to her husband. He was locking his 
portmanteau. 



BOBBING JOAN. 



309 



" That is all, I believe," he said, transferring the keys to his pocket, 
and taking up the small hand-case. " Remember that it is sent off by- 
to-night's train, Maria. I have addressed it." 

"You are not going now, George?" she said, her heart seeming to 
fail her strangely. 

" Yes, I am." 

But — there is no train. The express must have passed this half- 
hour." 

" I shall ride over to Crancomb and take the train there," he 
answered. " I have some business in the place," added he, by way of 
stopping any questions as to the why and wherefore. " Listen, Maria. 
You need not mention that I have gone until you see Thomas on 
Monday morning. Tell hiinP 

" Shall you not see him yourself in London " she returned. " Are 
you not going to meet him ? " 

" I may miss him : it is just possible," was the reply of George, 
spoken with all the candour in life, just as though his mission to Lon^ 
don was the express one of meeting his brother. " If Thomas should 
return home without having seen me, I mean." 

" What am I to tell him 1 " she asked. 

" Only that I am gone. There's no necessity to say anything else, 
I shall — if I miss seeing him in town — write to him here." 
" And when shall you be back again 1 " 
" Soon. Good-bye, my darljng." 

He held his wife folded in his arms, as he had recently held Meta. 
The tears were raining down her cheeks. 

" Don't grieve, Maria. It will blow over, I say. God bless you. 
Take care of Meta." 

Maria's heart felt as if it were breaking. But in the midst of her 
own distress, she remembered the claims of others. " That ten-pound 
note, George ? If you are not back in a day or two, how shall I have 
it ? The woman may come for it." 

" Oh, I shall be back. Or you can ask Thomas." 

In his careless indifference he thought he should be back before long. 
He was not going to run away : only to absent himself from the brunt 
of the explosion. That his delinquencies would be patent to Thomas 
and to others by Monday morning, he knew : it would be just as well to 
let some of their astonishment and anger evaporate without his 
presence ; be far more agreeable to himself, personally. In his care- 
less indifference, too, he had spoken the words, " You can ask Thomas." 
A moment's consideration would have told him that Thomas would 
have no ten-pound notes to spare for Maria. George Godolphin was 
one who never lost heart. He was indulging, now, the most ex- 
travagantly sanguine hopes of raising money in London, by some means 
or other. Perhaps Verrall could help him ? 

He strained his wife to his heart, kissed her again, and was gone. 
Maria sat down in the midst of her bhnding tears. 

Walking round to the stables, he waited there while his horse was 
got ready, mounted him, the small black case in front, and rode away 
alone. The groom thought his master was only going out for a ride, as 
he did on other days : but the man did wonder that Mr. George should 



3IO THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 

go that day. Crancomb was a small place about five miles off : it had 
a railway station, and the ordinary trains stopped there. What motive 
induced him to go there to take the train, he best knew. Probably, he 
did not care to excite the observation and comment, which his going 
off from Prior's Ash on that day would be sure to excite. Seriously to 
fear being stopped, he did not. 

He rode along at a leisurely pace, reaching Crancomb just before the 
up-train was expected. Evidently the day's great disaster had not yet 
travelled to Crancomb. George was received with all the tokens of 
respect, ever accorded to the Godolphins. He charged the landlord of 
the inn to send his horse back to Prior's Ash on Monday morning, 
changed Mrs. Bond's ten-pound note, and chatted famiharly to the 
employes at the station, after taking his ticket. 

Up came the train. Two or three solitary passengers, bound for the 
place, descended, two or three entered. The whistle sounded ; the 
engine shrieked and puffed : and George Godolphin, nodding familiarly 
around with his gay smile, was carried on his road to London. 

Maria had sat on, her blinding tears falling. What an alteration it 
was ! W^hat a contrast to the happiness of the morning ! That a few 
minutes should have power to bring forth so awful a change ! The 
work she had done so eagerly before, lay on the table. Where had its 
enjoyment gone ? She turned from it now with a feeling not far re- 
moved from sickness. Nothing could be thought of but the great 
trouble which had fallen ; there was no further satisfaction to be derived 
from outwatd things. The work lay there, untouched ; destined, 
though she knew it not, never to have another stitch set in it by its 
mistress ; and she sat on and on, her hands clasped inertly before her, 
her brain throbbing with its uncertainty and its care. 



CHAPTER XX. 

MRS. bond's visit. 

In the old study at All Souls' Rectory — if you have not forgotten that 
modest room — in the midst of almost as much untidiness as used to 
characterize it when the little Hastingses were in their untidy ages, 
sat some of them in the summer's evening. Rose's drawings and fancy- 
work lay about ; Mrs. Hastings's more substantial sewing lay about ; 
and a good deal of htter besides out of Reginald's pocket ; not to speak 
of books belonging to the boys, fishing-tackle, and sundries. 

Nothing was being touched, nothing used ; it all lay neglected, as 
Maria Godolphin's work had done, earlier in the afternoon. Mrs. 
Hastings sat in a listless attitude, her elbow on the old cloth cover of 
the table, her face turned to her children. Rose sat at the window ; 
Isaac and Reginald were standing by the mantel-piece; and Grace, 
her bonnet thrown off on to the floor, her shawl unpinned and partially 
falling from her shoulders, halt sat, half knelt at her mother's side, her 
face upturned to her, asking for particulars of the calamity. Grace had 
come running in only a few minutes ago, eager, anxious, and impulsive. 



MRS. BOND'S VISIT. 



3^1 



Only think the state I have been in ! " she cried. " But one servant 
in the house, and unable to leave baby to get down here ! I " 

" What brings you with only one servant ? " interrupted Rose. 

" Ann's mother is ill, and I have let her go home until Monday 
morning. I wish you would not interrupt me with frivolous questions, 
Rose ! " added Grace in her old, quick, sharp manner. " Any other 
day but Saturday, I would have left baby to Martha, and she might 
have put off her work, but on Saturdays there's always so much to do. 
I had half a mind to come and bring the baby myself. What should 
I care, if Prior's Ash did see me carrying him.^ But, mamma, you 
don't tell me — how has this dreadful thing been brought about ? " 

"/tell you, Grace ! " returned Mrs. Hastings. " I should be glad to 
know, myself" 

" There's a report going about — Tom picked it up somewhere and 
brought it home to me — that Mr. George Godolphin had been playing 
pranks with the Bank's money," continued Grace. 

" Grace, my dear, were I you I would not repeat such a report," 
gravely observed Mrs. Hastings. 

Grace shrugged her shoulders. George Godolphin had never been a 
favourite of hers, and never would be. It may turn out to be true," 
said she. 

" Then, my dear, it will be time enough for us to talk of it when it 
does. You are fortunate, Grace ; you had no money there." 

" I'm sure we had," answered Grace, more bluntly than politely. 
" We had thirty pounds there. And thirty pounds would be as much 
of a loss to us as thirty hundred to some." 

" Tom Akeman must be getting on — to keep a banking account ! " 
cried free Reginald. 

Grace for a wonder, did not detect the irony : though she knew that 
Reginald had never liked Mr. Akeman : he had always told Grace she 
lowered herself by marrying an unknown architect. 

" Seven hundred pounds were lodged in the Bank to his account when 
that chapel-of-ease was begun," she said, in answer to Reginald's re- 
mark. He has drawn it all out, for wages and other things, except 
thirty pounds. And of course, that, if it is lost, will be our loss. Had 
the Bank stood until next week, there would have been another large 
sum paid in. Will it go on again, Isaac ? " 

You may as well ask questions of a stranger, as ask them of me, 
Grace," was her brother Isaac's answer. " I cannot tell you anything 
certain." 

" You won't, you mean," retorted Grace. " I suppose you clerks may 
not tell tales out of school. What sum has the Bank gone for, Isaac 1 
That, surely, may be told." 

" Not for any sum," was Isaac's answer. The Bank has not ' gone ' 
yet, in that sense. There was a run upon the Bank this morning, and 
the calls were so great that we had not enough money in the place to 
satisfy them, and were obliged to cease paying. It is said that the 
Bank will open again on Monday, when assistance shall have come ; 
that business will be resumed, as usual. Mr. Godolphin himself said 
so : and he is not one to say a thing unless it has foundation. I know 
xiothing more than that, Grace, whatever you may choose to infer," 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



"Do you mean to tell me that there are no suspicions in the Bank 
that something, more than the public yet knows, is amiss with George 
Godolphin ? " persisted Grace. 

Isaac answered lightly and evasively. He was aware that such 
suspicions were afloat with the clerks. Chiefly led to by that appli- 
cation from the stranger, and his rude and significant charges, made so 
publicly. Isaac had not been present at that application. It was 
somewhat curious, perhaps — for a freemasonry runs amidst the clerks 
of an establishment, and they talk freely one with another — that he 
never heard of it until after the stoppage of the firm. If he had heard 
of it, he would certainly have told his father. But whatever suspicions 
he and his fellow-clerks might be entertaining against George Godolphin, 
he was not going to speak of them to Grace Akeman. 

Grace turned to her mother. " Papa has a thousand pounds or two 
there, has he not ? " 

^' Ah, child! if that were all! " returned Mrs. Hastings, with a groan. 

" Why ? What more has he there ? " asked Grace, startled by the 
words and the tone. Rose, startled also, turned round to await the 
answer. 

Mrs. Hastings seemed to hesitate. But only for a moment. " I do 
not know why I should not tell you," she said, looking at her daughters. 
" Isaac and Reginald both know it. He had just lodged there the 
trust-money belonging to the Chisholms : nine thousand and forty-five 
pounds." 

A silence fell upon the room. Grace and her sister were too dis- 
mayed to speak immediately. Reginald, who had now seated himself 
astride on a chair, his face and arms over the back of it, set up a soft 
lugubrious whistle, the tune of some old sea-song, feeling possibly the 
silence to be uncomfortable. To disclose a little secret, Mr. Reginald 
was not in the highest of spirits, having been subjected to some hard 
scolding that day on the part of his father, and some tears on the part 
of his mother, touching the non-existence of any personal effects. He 
had arrived at home, for the fourth time since his first departure for 
sea, baggageless, his luggage consisting exclusively of what he stood 
up in. Of everything else belonging to him, he was able to give no 
account whatever. It is rather a common complaint amongst young 
sailors. And then he was always changing his ships. 

"Is papa responsible for it The half-frightened question came 
from Rose. 

" Certainly he is," replied Mrs. Hastings. "If the Bank should 7iot 
go on, why — we are ruined. As well as those poor children, the 
Chisholms.'* 

" Oh, mamma ! why did he not draw it out this morning ? " cried 
Grace in a tone of pain. " Tom told me that many people were paid 
in full." 

" Had he known the state the Bank was in, that there was anything 
the matter with it, no doubt he would have drawn it out," returned 
Mrs. Hastings. 

" Did Maria know it was paid in ? " 

" Yes." 

Grace's eyes flashed fire. Somehow, she was never inclined to be 



MRS. BOND'S VISIT. 



313 



too considerate to Maria. She never had been from their earliest 
years. " A dutiful daughter ! Not to give her father warning ! " 

" Maria may not have been able to do it," observed Mrs. Hastings. 
" Perhaps she did not know that anything was wrong." 

"Nonsense, mamma! "was Grace's answer. "We have heard — 
when a thing like this happens, you know people begin to talk freely, to 
compare notes, as it were — we have heard that George Godolphin and 
Maria are owing money all over the town. Maria has not paid her 
housekeeping bills for ever so long. Of course she must have known 
what was coming ! " 

Mrs. Hastings did not dispute the point with Grace. The main fact 
troubled her too greatly for minor considerations to be very prominent 
with her yet. She had never found Maria other than a considerate 
and dutiful daughter : and she must be convinced that she had not 
been so in this instance, before she could believe it. 

" She was afraid of compromising George Godolphin," continued 
Grace in a bitter tone. "He has ever been first and foremost with 
her." 

" She might have given a warning without compromising him," 
returned Mrs. Hastings; but, in making the remark,' she did not 
intend to cast any reflection on Maria. "When your papa went to 
pay the money in, it was after banking hours. Maria was alone, and 
he told her what he had brought. Had she been aware of anything 
wrong, she might have given a hint to him, then and there. It need 
never have been known to George Godolphin— even that your papa 
had any intention of paying money in." 

" And this was recently ? " 

" Only a week or two ago." 

Grace pushed her shawl more off her shoulders, and beat her knee 
up and down as she sat on the low stool. Suddenly she turned to 
Isaac. 

" Hsidyoii no suspicion that anything was wrong? " 

" Yes, a shght one," he incautiously answered. " A doubt, though, 
more than a suspicion." 

Grace took up the admission warmly. "And you could hug the 
doubt slyly to yourself and never warn your father ! " she indignantly 
uttered. "A fine son you are, Isaac Hastings!" 

Isaac was of equable temperament. He did not retort on Grace that 
he had warned him, but that Mr. Hastings had not acted upon the 
hint ; at least not effectually. " When my father blames me, it will be 
time enough for you to blame me, Grace," was all he said in answer. 
" And — in my opinion — it might be just as well if you waited to hear 
whether Maria deserves blame, before you cast so much on her." 

" Pshaw ! " returned Grace. " The thing speaks for itself." 

Had Grace witnessed the bitter sorrow, the prostration, the uncer- 
tainty in which her sister was sunk at that moment, she might have 
been more charitable in her judgment. Practical and straightforward 
herself, it would have been as impossible for Grace to remain ignorant 
of her husband's affairs, pecuniary or else, as it was for her to believe 
that Maria Godolphin had remained so. And, if fully convinced that 
guch had indeed been the fact, Grace would have deemed her state of 



314 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



contented ignorance to be little less than a crime. She and Maria 
were as essentially different as two people can well be. Pity but she 
could have seen Maria then ! 

Maria was in her dining-room. She had made a pretence of going 
down to dinner, not to excite the observation and remarks of the 
servants : in her excessive sensitiveness she could not bear that they 
should even see she was in grief. Grace, in her place, might have 
spoken openly and angrily before the household of the state of affairs. 
Not so Maria : she buried it all within her. 

She could not eat. Toying with this plate and that plate, she knew 
not hoAV to swallow a morsel or to make pretence of doing so, before 
the servants, standing by. But it came to an end, that dinner, and 
Maria was left alone. 

She sat on, musing ; her brain racked with busy thoughts. To one 
of the strangely refined organization of Maria Hastings, a blow, such 
as the one fallen, appeared more terrible even than it was. Of the 
consequences she as yet knew little, could foresee less ; therefore they 
were not much glanced at by her : but of the disgrace Maria took an 
exaggerated view. Whether the Bank went on again or not, they 
seemed to have fallen from their high pedestal ; and Maria shrank 
with a visible shudder at the bare thought of meeting her friends and 
acquaintances ; at the idea of going out to show herself in the town. 

Many would not have minded it ; some would not have looked upon 
it in the light of a disgrace at all : minds and feelings, I say, are 
differently constituted. Take Mrs. Charlotte Pain, for example. Had 
she enjoyed the honour of being George Godolphin's wife, she would 
not have shed a tear, or eaten a meal the less, or abstained by so much 
as a single day from gladdening the eyes of Prior's Ash. Walking, 
riding, or driving, Charlotte would have shown herself as usual. 

Pierce came in. And Maria lifted her head with a start, and made 
a pretence of looking up quite carelessly, lest the man should see how 
full of trouble she was. 

" Here's that Mrs. Bond at the door, ma'am," he said. " I can't get 
rid of her. She declares that you gave her leave to call, and said that 
you would see her." 

Maria seemed to grow hot and cold. That the woman had come 
for her ten-pound note, she felt convinced, induced to it, perhaps, by 
the misfortune of the day, and — she had it not to give her. Maria 
would have given a great deal for a ten-pound bank-note then. 

" I will see her. Pierce," she said. Let her come in." 

Mrs. Bond, civil and sober to-night, came in, curtseying. Maria — 
ah, that sensitive heart ! — felt quite meek and humbled before her ; 
very different from what she would have felt had she had the money to 
refund. Mrs. Bond asked for it civilly. 

" I am sorry that I cannot give it to you to-night," answered Maria. 

I will send it to you in a day or two." 
You promised, ma'am, that I should have it whenever I axed," said 

she. 

I know I did," rephed Maria. " If I had it in the house I would 
give it you now. You shall have it next week." 
" Can I have it on Monday ? " asked Mrs. Bond. 



A DREAD FEAR. 



315 



Yes," answered Maria. " Shall I send it to you ? " 
I'd not give you the trouble," said Mrs. Bond. " I'll make bold to 
step up again and get it, ma'am, on Monday." 

" Very well," replied Maria. ^' If Miss Meta was here, she would 
ask after the parrot." 

" It's beautiful," exclaimed Dame Bond. " It's tail's like a lovely 
green plume o' feathers. But I ain't got used to its screeching yet. 
Then I'll be here on Monday, ma'am, if you please." 

Maria rang the bell, and Pierce escorted her to the door. To return 
again on Monday. 

Maria Godolphin never deemed that she was not safe in making the 
promise. Thomas Godolphin would be home then, and she could get 
the note from him. 

And she sat on alone, as before ; her mind more troubled, her weary 
head upon her hand. 



CHAPTER XXL 

A BREAD FEAR. ' ' 

Can you picture the sensations of Maria Godolphin during that night ? 
No : not unless it has been your lot to pass through such. She went 
up to her bedroom at the usual time, not to excite any gossip in the 
household ; she undressed mechanically ; she went to bed. It had 
been much the custom with herself and George to sleep with the blinds 
up. They liked a light room ; and a large gas-lamp in Crosse Street 
threw its full light in. Now, she lay with her eyes closed : not court- 
ing sleep ; she knew that there would be no sleep for her, no continuous 
sleep, for many and many a night to come : now, she turned on her 
uneasy couch and lay with her eyes open : anything for a change in 
the monotonous hours. The dressing-table, its large glass, its costly 
ornaments, stood betv/een the windows ; she could trace its outlines, 
almost the pattern of its white lace drapery over the pink silk. The 
white window-curtains were looped up with pink ; some of the pretty 
white chairs were finished off with pink beading. A large cheval-glass 
swung in a corner. On a console of white marble, its frettings of gilt, 
stood Maria's Prayer-book and Bible, with "Wilson's Supper and 
Sacra Privata : " a book she frequently opened for a few minutes in a 
morning. A small ornamental bookcase was on the opposite side, con- 
taining some choice works culled from the hterature of the day. On 
the table, in the centre of the room, lay a small travelling-desk of 
George's, which he had left there when packing his things. All these 
famihar objects, with others, were perfectly visible to Maria's eyes ; 
and yet she saw them not. If the thought intruded that this comfort- 
able bedchamber might not much longer be hers, she did not dwell 
upon it. That phase of the misfortune had scarcely come to her. 
Her chief sensation was one of shivering cold : that nervous coldness 
which only those who have experienced intense dread or pain of mind, 
ever have felt. She shivered inwardly and outwardly — and she said 



3i6 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



perpetually, " When will the night be gone ? " It was only the pre- 
cursor of worse nights, many of them, in store for her. 

Morning dawned at last. Maria watched in the daylight; and lay 
closing her eyes against the light until it was the usual time for rising. 
She got up, shivering still, and unrefreshed. Many a one might have 
slept through the night, just as usual, have risen renovated, have been 
none the worse, in short, in spirit or in health, for the blow which had 
fallen. Charlotte Pain might have slept all the better. II y a des 
femvies et des fem7?tes. 

It was Sunday morning, and the church bells were giving token of 
it, as it is customary for them to do at eight o'clock. When Maria went 
down to breakfast, it was nearly nine. The sun was bright, and the 
breakfast-table, laid with its usual care in the pleasant dining-room, was 
bright also with its china and silver. 

Something else looked bright. And that was Miss Meta. Miss 
Meta came in, following on her mamma's steps, and attended by 
Margery. Very bright in her Sunday attire. An embroidered white 
frock, its sleeves tied up with blue ribbons, and a blue sash. Careful 
Margery had put a large white pinafore over the whole, lest the frock 
should come to grief at breakfast. On Sunday mornings Meta was 
indulged with a seat at her papa and mamma's breakfast-table. 

The child was a little bit of a gourmande, as it is in the nature of 
many children at that age to be. She liked nice things very much 
indeed. Bounding to the breakfast-table, she stood on tiptoe, her chin 
up, regarding what might be on it. Maria drew her to a chair apart, 
and sat down with the child on her knee, to take her morning kiss. 

" Have you been a good girl, Meta ? Have you said your prayers ? " 

" Yes," confidently answered Meta to both questions. 

" She has said 'em after a fashion," cried Margery. " It's not much 
prayers that's got out of her on a Sunday morning, except hurried ones. 
I had to make her say the Lord's Prayer twice over, she gabbled it so. 
Her thoughts are fixed on coming down here; afraid breakfast should 
be eaten, I suppose." 

Maria was in no mood for bestowing admonition. She stroked the 
child's fair golden curls fondly, and kissed her pretty lips. 

^'Where's papa?" asked Meta. 

" He is out, dear. Don't you remember ? Papa went out yesterday. 
He has not come home yet." 

Meta drew a long face. Papa indulged her more than mamma did, 
especially in the matter of breakfast. Mamma was apt to say such and 
such a dainty was not good for Meta : papa helped her to it, whether 
good for her or not. 

Maria put her down. " Place her at the table, Margery. It is cold 
this morning, is it not ? " she added, as Meta was lifted on to a 
chair. 

" Cold ! " returned Margery. Where can your feelings be, ma'am ? 
It's a hot summer's day." 

Maria sat down herself to the breakfast-table. Several letters lay 
before her. On a Sunday morning the letters were brought into the 
dining-room, and Pierce was in the habit of laying them before his 
master's place. To-day, he had laid them before Maria's, 



A DREAD FEAR. 



317 



She took them up. All, except three, were addressed to the firm. 
Two of these bore George's private address ; the third was for Margery. 

" Here is a letter for you, Margery," she said, putting the others 
down, that they might be carried into the Bank. 

" For me ! " returned Margery in surprise. "Are you sure, ma'am 

Maria handed her the letter, and Margery, searching her pocket for 
her spectacles, opened it without ceremony, and stood reading it. 

" I dare say ! what else wouldn't they like ! " was her ejaculatory 
remark. 

" Is it from Scotland, Margery?'' asked her mistress. 

"It wouldn't be from nowhere else," answered Margery in vexation. 
" I have no other kin to pull and tug at me. They're going on to 
Wales, she and her son, and she wants me to meet her on the journey 
to-morrow, just for an hour's talk. Some people have consciences! 
Ride a matter of forty mile, and spend a sight o' money in doing it ! " 

" Are you speaking of your sister — Mrs. Bray ? " 

" M ore's the pity, I am," answered Margery. " Selina was always 
one of the weak ones, ma'am. She says she has been ill again, feels 
likely to die, and is going to Wajes for some months to his friends, to 
try if the air will benefit her. She'd be ever grateful for a five-pound 
note, she adds, not having a penny-piece beyond what will take her to 
her journey's end. I wonder how much they have had from me in the 
whole, if it came to be put down ! " wrathfully concluded Margery. 

" You can have a day's holiday, you know, Margery, if you wish to 
meet her on the journey." 

" I must talce time to consider," shortly answered Margery, who was 
always considerably put out by these applications. " She has been 
nothing but a trouble to me, ma'am, ever since she married that ne'er- 
do-well Bray. Now, Miss Meta ! you be a good child, and don't upset 
the whole cup of coffee over your pinafore, as you did last Sunday 
morning ! " 

The parting admonition was addressed to Meta, in conjunction with 
a shght shake administered to that young lady, under the pretence of 
resettling her on her chair. Meta was at once the idol and the torment 
of Margery's life. Margery withdrew, and Maria, casting her spiritless 
eyes on the breakfast-table, took a modest piece of dry toast, and put a 
morsel into her mouth. 

But she found some difficulty in swallowing it. Throat and bread 
were alike dry. She drew the butter towards her, thinking it might 
help her to eat the toast. No; no. She could not swallow it any 
more than the other. The fault did not lie there. 

" Would Meta like a nice piece of toast ? " she asked. 

Meta liked anything that was good in the shape of eatables. She 
nodded her head several times, by way of answer. And Maria spread 
the toast and passed it to her. 

Breakfast came to an end. Maria took the child on her knee, read 
her a pretty Bible story, her daily custom after breakfast, talked to her 
a httle, and then sent her to the nursery. She, Maria, sat on alone. 
She heard the bells ring out for service, but they did not ring for her. 
Maria Godolphin could no more have shown her face in church that 
day, than she could have committed some desperately wrong act. 



3i8 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Under the disgrace which had fallen upon them, it would have seemed, 
to her sensitive mind, something like an act of unblushing impudence. 
She gathered her books around her, and strove to make the best of 
them alone. Perhaps she had scarcely yet realized the great fact that 
God can be a comforter in the very darkest affliction. Maria's experi- 
ence that way was yet limited. 

She had told the servants that she would dine in the middle of the 
day with the child, as their master was out ; and at half-past one she 
sat down to dinner, and made what pretence she could of eating a little. 
Better pretence than she had made in the morning, for the servants 
were present now. She took the wing of a fowl on her plate, and turned 
it about and managed to eat part of it. Meta made up for her : the 
young lady partook of the fowl and other things with great relish, 
showing no sign that her appetite was failing, if her mamma's was. 

Later, she was despatched for a walk with Margery, and Maria was 
once more alone. She felt to wish to run away from herself : the 
house seemed too large for her. She wandered from the dining-room 
to her sitting-room upstairs ; from the sitting-room across the vestibule 
to the drawing-room. She paced its large proportions, her feet sink- 
ing into the rich velvet-pile carpet ; she glanced at the handsome furni- 
ture. But she saw nothing : the sense of her eyes, that day, was buried 
within her. 

She felt indescribably lonely : she felt a sense of desertion. No one 
called upon her, no one came near her : even her brother Reginald had 
not been. People were not much in the habit of calling on her on a 
Sunday; but their absence seemed like neglect, in her deep sorrow. 
Standing for a minute at one of the windows, and looking out mechani- 
cally, she saw Isaac pass. 

He looked up, discerned her standing there, and nodded. A sudden 
impulse prompted Maria to make a sign to him to enter. Her brain 
was nearly wearied out with incertitude and perplexity. All day, all 
night, had she been wondering how far the calamity would fall ; what 
would be its limit, what its extent. Isaac might be able to tell her 
something at present she was in complete ignorance of everything. 

He came up the stairs swiftly, and entered. " Alone ! " he said, 
shaking hands with her. How are you to-day ? " 

" Pretty well," answered Maria. 

" You were not at church, Maria ? " 
No," she answered. I did not go this morning." 

A sort of constrained silence ensued. If Maria waited for Isaac to 
speak of yesterday's misfortune, she waited in vain. Of all people in 
the world, he would be least likely to speak of it to George Godolphin's 
wife. Maria must do it herself, if she wanted it done. 

Isaac, do you know whether the Bank will be open again to-morrow 
morning ? " she began, in a low tone. 
No, I do not." 

Do you thi7ik it will? I wish you to tell me what you think," she 
added in a pointedly earnest tone. 

" You should ask your husband for information, Maria. He must be 
far better able to give it to you than I." 

She remembered that George had told her she need not mention his 



A DREAD FEAR. 319 

having left Prior's Ash until she saw Thomas Godolphin on Monday 
morning. Therefore she did not reply to Isaac that she could not ask 
George because he was absent. " Isaac, I wish you to tell me," she 
gravely rejoined. Anything you know, or may think." 

" I really know very little, Maria. Nothing, in fact, for certain. 
Prior's Ash is saying that the Bank will not open again. The report 
is that some message of an unfavourable nature was telegraphed down 
last night by Mr. Godolphin." 

Telegraphed to whom ? " she asked eagerly. 

To Hurde. I cannot say whether there's any foundation for it. 
Old Hurde's as close as wax. No fear of his spreading it, if it has 
come ; unless it lay in his business to do so. I walked out of church 
with him, but he did not say a syllable about it to me." 

Maria sat a few minutes in silence. "If the Bank should not go on, 
Isaac — what then ? " 

"Why — then, of course it would not go on," was the very logical 
answer returned by Mr. Isaac. 

" But what would be done, Isaac ? How would it end ? " 

" Well — I suppose there'd be an official winding-up of affairs. Per- 
haps the Bank might be reopened afterwards on a smaller scale. I 
don't know." 

" An official winding-up," repeated Maria, her sweet face turned 
earnestly on her brother's. "Do you mean bankruptcy ? " 
" Something of that sort." 

A blank pause. " In bankruptcy, everything is sold, is it not? 
Would these things have to be sold ? " — looking round upon the costly 
furniture. 

" Things generally are sold in such a case," replied Isaac. " I don't 
know how it would be in this." 

Evidently there was not much to be got out of Isaac. He either 
did not know, or he would not. Sitting a few minutes longer, he de- 
parted — afraid, possibly, how far Maria's questions might extend. Not 
long had he been gone, when boisterous steps were heard leaping up 
the stairs, and Reginald Hastings — noisy, impetuous Reginald — came 
in. He threw his arms round Maria, and kissed her heartily. Maria 
spoke reproachfully. 

" At home since yesterday morning, and not have come to see me 
before ! " she exclaimed. 

" They wouldn't let me come yesterday," bluntly replied Reginald. 
" They thought you'd be all down in the mouth with this bother, and 
would not care to see folks. Another thing, I was in hot water with 
them." 

A faint smile crossed Maria's lips. She could not remember the 
time when Reginald had not come home to plunge into hot water with 
the ruling powers at the Rectory. "What was the matter?" she 
asked. 

" Well, it was the old grievance about my bringing home no traps. 
Things do melt on a voyage somehow — and what with one outlet and 
another for your pay, it's of no use trying to keep square. I left the 
ship, too, and came back in another. I say, where's Meta ? Gone out ? 
I should have come here as soon as dinner was over, only Rose kept 



• 



320 THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAf. 

me. I am going to Grace's to tea. How is George Godolphin.^ He 
is out, too ? " 

"He is well," replied Maria, passing over the other question. "What 
stay shall you make at home, Reginald ? " 

" Not long, if I know it. There's a fellow in London looking out for 
a ship for me. I thought to go up and pass for second mate, but I 
don't suppose I shall now. It's as gloomy as ditch-water this time at 
home. They are all regularly cut up about the business here. Will 
the Bank go on again, Maria?" 

" I don't know anything about it, Reginald. I wish I did know." 

" I say, Maria," added the thoughtless fellow, lowering his voice, 
" there's no truth, I suppose, in what Prior's Ash is saying about George 
Godolphin ? " 

" What is Prior's Ash saying ? " returned Maria. 

" Ugly things," answered Reginald. " I heard something about — 
about swindling." 

" About swindling ! " 

" Swindling, or forgery, or some queer thing of that sort. I wouldn't 
listen to it." 

I Maria grew cold. " Tell me what you heard, Reginald — as well as 
you can remember," she said, her unnatural calmness deceiving 
Reginald, and cloaking all too well her mental agony. 

" Tales are going about that there's something wrong with George. 
That he has not been doing things on the square. A bankruptcy's 
not much, they say, except to the creditors ; it can be got over : but if 
there's anything worse — why, the question is, will he get over it ? " 

Maria's heart beat on as if it would burst its bounds : her blood was 
fiercely coursing through her veins. A few moments of struggle, and 
then she spoke, still with unnatural calmness. 

" It is not likely, Reginald, that such a thing could be true." 

" Of course it is not," said Reginald, with impetuous indignation. 
" If I had thought it was true, I should not have asked you about it, 
Maria. Why, that class of people have to stand in a dock and be tried, 
and get imprisoned, and transported, and all the rest of it ! That's 
just like Prior's Ash ! If it gets hold of the story to-day that I have 
come home without my sea-chest, to-morrow it will be saying that I 
have come home without my head. George Godolphin's a jolly good 
fellow, and I hope he'll turn round on the lot. Many a time he has 
helped me out of a hole that I didn't dare tell any one else of; and 
I wish he may come triumphantly out of this ! " 

' Reginald talked on, but Maria heard him not. An awful fear had 
been aroused within her. Entire as was her trust in her husband's 
honour, improbable as the uncertain accusation was, the terrible fear 
that something or other might be wrong took possession of her, and 
turned her heart to sickness. 

" I bought Meta a stuffed monkey out there," continued Reginald, 
jerking his head to indicate some remote quarter of his travels. " I 
thought you'd not like me to bring home a live one for her — even if 
the skipper had allowed it to come in the ship. I came across a stuffed 
one cheap, and bought it." 

Maria roused herself to smile. " Have you brought it to Prior's Ash?" 



A DREAD FEAR. 



321 



Well — no," confessed Reginald, coming down a tone or two. 
" The fact is, it went with the rest of my things. I'll get her some- 
thing better next voyage. And now I'm off, Maria, for Grace's tea 
will be ready. Remember me to George Godolphin. I'll come in 
and see him to-morrow." 

With a commotion, equal to that he had made in ascending, Reginald 
clattered down, and Maria saw him and his not too good sailor's jacket 
go swaying up the street towards her sister's. It was the only jacket 
of any sort Mr. Reginald possessed : and the only one he was likely to 
possess, until he could learn to keep himself and his clothes in better 
order. 

Maria, with the new fear at her heart — which, strive as she might 
to thrust it indignantly from her, to ignore it, to reason herself out 
of it, would continue to be a fear, and a very horrible one — remained 
alone for the rest of the day. Just before bedtime, Margery came 
to her. 

" I have been turning it over in my mind, ma'am, and have come to 
the conclusion that it might be as well if I do go to meet* my sister. 
She's always on the groan, it's true : but maybe she is bad, and we 
might never have a chance of sedng each other again. So I think 
I'll go." 

" Very well," said Maria. " Harriet can attend to the child. What 
time in the morning must you be away, Margery ? " 

" By half-past six out of here," answered Margery. " The train goes 
five minutes before seven. Could you let me have a little money, 
please, ma'am ? I suppose I must give her a pound or two." 

Maria felt startled at the request. How was she to comply with it ? 
" I have no money, Margery," said she, her heart beating. ^' At least, 
I have very little. Too little to be of much use to you." 

" Then that stops it," returned Margery with her abrupt freedom. 
" It's of no good for me to think of going without money." 

" Have you none by you ? " asked Maria. " It is a pity you must be 
away before the Bank opens in the morning." 

Before the Bank opens ! Was it spoken in thoughtlessness ? Or 
did she merely mean to indicate the hour of Thomas Godolphin's 
arrival.^ 

" What I have by me isn't much," said Margery. " A few shillings 
or so. It might take me there and bring me back again : but Selina 
will look glum if I don't give her something." 

In Maria's purse there remained the sovereign and seven shillings 
which George had seen there. She gave the sovereign to Margery, 
who could, if she chose, give it to her sister. Maria suggested that 
more could be sent to her by post-office order. Margery's savings, 
what the Brays had spared of them, and a small legacy left her by her 
former mistress, Mrs. Godolphin, were in George's hands. Would she 
ever see them ? It was a question to be solved. 

To her bed again to pass another night such as the last. As the 
last? Had this night been only as the last, it might have been more 
calmly borne. The coldness, the sleeplessness, the trouble and pain 
would have been there ; but not the sharp agony, the awful dread she 
scarcely knew of what, arising from the incautious words of Reginald. 

The Shadow of Ashlydyat. 21 



322 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



It is only by comparison that we can form a true estimate of what is 
bad, what good. Maria Godolphin would have said the night before, 
that it was impossible for any to be worse than that : now she looked 
back upon it, and envied it by comparison. There had been the sense 
of the humiliation, the disgrace arising from an unfortunate com- 
mercial crisis in their affairs ; but the worse dread which had come 
to her now was not so much as dreamt of. Shivering as one in mortal 
coldness, lay Maria, her brain alone burning, her mouth dry, her throat 
parched. When, oh when would the night be gone ! 

Far more unrefreshed did she arise this morning than on the previous 
one. The day was beautiful ; the morning hot : but Maria seemed to 
shiver as with ague. Margery had gone on her journey, and Harriet, 
a maid who waited on Maria, attended to the child. Of course, with 
Margery away. Miss Meta ran riot in having her own will. She chose 
to breakfast with her mamma : and her mamma, who saw no particular 
objection, was not in spirits to oppose it. 

She was seated at the table opposite Maria, revelling in coffee and 
good things, instead of plain bread and milk. A pretty picture, with 
her golden hair, her soft- face, and her flushed cheeks. She wore a 
delicate pink frock and a white pinafore, the sleeves tied up with a 
light mauve-coloured ribbon, and her pretty little hands and arms were 
never still above the table. In the midst of her own enjoyment it 
appeared that she found leisure to observe that her mamma was taking 
nothing. 

" Mamma, why don't you eat some breakfast ? " 
I am not hungry, Meta." 
There's Uncle Thomas ! " she resumed. 

Uncle Thomas! At half-past eight? But Meta was right. That 
was Mr. Godolphin's voice in the hall, speaking to Pierce. A gleam 
of something like sunshine darted into Maria's heart. His early arrival 
seemed to whisper of a hope that the Bank would be reopened — though 
Maria could not have told whence she drew the deduction. 

She heard him go into the Bank. But, ere many minutes elapsed, 
he had come out again, and was knocking at the door of the breakfast- 
room. 

^' Come in." 

He came in : and a grievous sinking fell upon Maria's heart as she 
looked at him. In his pale, sad countenance, bearing too evidently 
the traces of acute mental suffering, she read a death-blow to her hopes. 
Rising, she held out her hand, without speaking. 

Uncle Thomas, I'm having breakfast here," put in a Httle intruding 
voice. " I'm having coffee and egg." 

Thomas laid his hand for a moment on the child's head as he passed 
her. He took a seat a little away from the table, facing Maria, who 
turned to him. 

" Pierce tells me that George is not here." 

"He went to London on Saturday afternoon," said Maria. " Did 
you not see him there ? " 

" No," rephed Thomas, speaking very gravely. 

"He bade me tell you this morning that he had gone — in case he 
did not see you himself in town." 



A DREAD FEAR. 



323 



Why has he gone? For what purpose? " 

" I do not know," answered Maria. " That was all he said to me." 

Thomas had his earnest dark-grey eyes fixed upon her. Their 
expression did not tend to lessen the sickness at Maria's heart. ^'What 
address has he left ? 

"He gave me none," replied Maria. " I inferred from what he 
seemed to intimate that he would be very soon home again. I can 
scarcely remember what it was he really did say, his departure was so 
hurried. I knew nothing of it until he had packed his trunk. He said 
he was going to town on business, and that I was to tell you so on 
Monday morning." 

" What trunk did he take? " 

" The large one." 

" Then he must be thinking of staying some time." 

It was the thought which had several times occurred to Maria. 
" The trunk was addressed to the railway terminus in London, I re- 
member," she said. " Hq did not take it with him. It was sent up by 
the night train." 

" Then, in point of fact, you carl give me no information about him : 
except this ? " 

" No," she answered, feeling, she could hardly tell why, rather 
ashamed of having to make the confession. But it was no fault of hers. 
Thomas Godolphin rose to retire. 

" I'm having breakfast with mamma. Uncle Thomas ! " persisted the 
little busy tongue. " Margery's gone for all day. Perhaps I shall 
have dinner with mamma." 

" Hush, Meta ! " said Maria, speaking in a sadly subdued manner, 
as if the chatter, intruding upon their seriousness, were more than she 
could bear. " Thomas, is the Bank going on again? Will it be opened 
to-day ? " 

"It will never go on again," was Thomas Godolphin's answer : and 
Maria shrank from the lively pain of the tone in which the words were 
spoken. 

There was a blank pause. Maria became conscious that Thomas 
had turned, and was looking gravely, it may be said searchingly, at 
her face. 

" You have known nothing, I presume, Maria, of— of the state that 
affairs were getting into ? You were not in George's confidence ? " 

She returned the gaze with honest openness, something like wonder 
shining forth from her soft brown eyes. " I have known nothing," 
she answered. " George never spoke to me upon business matters : he 
never would speak to me upon them." 

No ; Thomas felt sure that he had not. He was turning again to 
leave the room, when Maria, her voice a timid one, a delicate blush 
rising to her cheeks, asked if she could have some money. 

" I have none to give you, Maria." 

" I expect Mrs. Bond here for her ten-pound note. I don c know 
what I shall do, unless I can have it to give her. George told me 
I could have it from you this morning." 

Thomas Godolphin did not understand. Maria explained. About 
her having taken care of the note, and that George had borrowed it on 



324 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAf 



Saturday* Thomas shook his head. He was very sorry, he said, but 



" It is not hke an ordinary debt," Maria ventured to urge. " It was 
the woman's own money, intrusted to me for safe keeping on the under- 
standing that she should claim it whenever she pleased. I should be 
so much obliged to you to let me have it." 

" You do not understand me, Maria. It is no want of will on my 
part. I have not the money." 

Maria's colour was gradually receding from her face, leaving in its 
place something that looked like terror. She would have wished to 
pour forth question after question — -Has all our money gone? Are we 
quite ruined.^ Has George done anything very wrong? — but she did 
not. In her refined sensitiveness she had not the courage to put such 
questions to Thomas Godolphin : perhaps she had not the courage yet 
to encounter the probable answers. 

Thomas left the room, saying no more. He would not pain her by 
speaking of the utter ruin which had come upon them, the disgraceful 
ruin ; of the awful trouble looming upon them, in which she must be a 
sufferer equally with himself ; perhaps she the greatest sufferer. Time 
enough for it. Maria sat down in her place again, a dull mist before 
her eyes, sorrow in her heart. 

" Mamma, I've eaten my egg. I want some of that." 

M eta's finger was stretched towards the ham at the foot of the table. 
Maria rose mechanically to cut her some. There was no saying this 
morning, " That is not good for Meta." Her heart was utterly bowed 
down beyond resistance, or thought of it. She placed some ham on 
a plate, cut it into small pieces, and laid it before that eager young 
lady. 

^' Mamma, I should like some buttered roll." 

The roll was supplied also. What would not Maria have supplied, if 
asked for ? All these commonplace trifles appeared so pitiably insig- 
nificant beside the dreadful trouble come upon them. 

" A little more sugar, please, mamma." 

Before any answer could be given to this latter demand, either in 
word or action, a tremendous summons at the hall-door resounded 
through the house. Maria shrank from its sound. A fear, she knew 
not of what, had taken up its abode within her, some strange, undefined 
dread, connected with her husband. 

Her poor heart need not have beaten so; her breath need not have 
been held, her ears strained to listen. Pierce threw open the dining- 
room door, and there rushed in a lady, all demonstrative sympathy and 
eagerness. A lady in a handsome light Cashmere shawl, which spread 
itself over her dress and nearly covered it, and a straw hat, with an 
upright scarlet plume. 

It was Charlotte Pain. She seized Maria's hand and impulsively 
asked what she could do for her. " I knew it would be so ! " she 
volubly exclaimed — that you'd be looking like a ghost. That's the 
worst of you, Mrs. George Godolphin ! You let any trifle worry you. 
The moment I got the letters in this morning, and found how badly 
things were turning out for your husband, I said to myself, * There'll be 
Mrs. George in the dumps 1 ' And I flung this shawl on to cover my 




A DREAD FEAR. 



32s 



toilette, for I was not en grande tenue, and came off to cheer you, and 
see if I could be of any use." 

Charlotte flung her shawl off 2iS she spoke, ignoring ceremony. She 
had taken the chair vacated by Thomas Godolphin, and with a 
dexterous movement of the hands, the shawl fell behind her, disclosing 
the "toilette." A washed-out muslin skirt of no particular colour, 
tumbled, and a little torn ; and some strange-looking thing above it, 
neither jacket nor body, of a bright yellow, the whole dirty and stained. 

" You are very kind," answered Maria, with a shrinking spirit and a 
\ voice that faltered. Two points in Mrs. Pain's words had struck upon 
her ominously. The mention of the letters, and the hint conveyed in 
the expression, things turning out "badly "for George. "Have you 
heard from him ? " she continued. 

" Heard from him ! — how could I ? " returned Charlotte. " London 
letters don't come in this morning. What should he have to write to 
me about, either? I have heard from another quarter, and I have 
heard the rumours in Prior's Ash." 

" Will you tell me what you have heard ? " rejoined Maria. 

" Well," said Charlotte in a friendly tone, as she leaned towards her, 
" I suppose the docket will be struck to-day — if it is not struck 
already. The Phihstines are down on the house, and mean to declare 
it bankrupt." 

Maria sat in blank dismay. She understood veryhttle of the details 
of these business matters. Charlotte was quite at home in such things. 
" What will be the proceedings ? " Maria asked, after a pause. " What 
do they do 1 " 

" Oh, there's a world of bother," returned Charlotte. " It will drive 
quiet Thomas Godolphin crazy. The books have all to be gone 
through, and accounts of moneys rendered. The worst is, they'll come 
here and note down every individual thing in the house, and then put 
a man in to see that nothing's moved. That agreeable item in the 
business I dare say you may expect this morning." 

Let us give Charlotte her due. She had really come in a sympa- 
thizing, friendly spirit to Maria Godolphin, and in no other. It may 
be, that Charlotte rather despised her for being so simple and childish 
in the ways of the world, but that was only the more reason why she 
should help her if she could. Every word of information that Mrs. 
Pain was giving was as a dagger thrust in Maria's heart. Charlotte 
had no suspicion of this. Had a similar calamity happened to herself, 
she would have discussed it freely with all the world : possessing no 
extreme sensibility of feeling, she did not understand it in another. 
For Maria to talk of the misfortune, let its aspect be ever so bad, 
seemed to Charlotte perfectly natural. 

Charlotte leaned closer to Maria, and spoke in a whisper. "Is there 
anything you'd like to put away ? " 

"To put away?" repeated Maria, not awake to the drift of the 
argument. 

" Because you had better give it to me at once. Spoons, or plate of 
any sort, or your own jewellery ; any little things that you may want to 
save. I'll carry them away under my shawl. Don't you understand 
me ? " she added, seeing the blank perplexity on Maria's face. "If 



326 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



once those harpies of men come in, you can't move or hide a single 
article, but you might put the whole house away now, if you could get 
it out." 

But suppose it were known ? " asked Maria. 

Then there'd be a row," was Charlotte's candid answer. " Who's 
to know it ? Look at that greedy little monkey ? " 

Meaning Miss Meta, who was filhng her mouth quickly with the 
pieces of ham and the buttered roll, seemingly with great rehsh. 

"Is it good, child ? " said Charlotte. 

For answer, Meta nodded her head, too busy to speak. Maria, as in 
civility bound, invited her visitor to take some breakfast. 

" I don't care if I do," said Charlotte. I was just going to break- 
fast when I came off to you. Look here, Mrs. George Godolphin, I'll 
help myself : you go meanwhile and make up a few parcels for me. 
Just what you set most value by, you know." 

" I should be afraid," answered Maria. 

" What is there to be afraid of ? " asked Charlotte, opening her eyes. 
" They'll be safe enough at the Folly. That is Lady Godolphin's : her 
private property. The bankruptcy can't touch that ; as it will this 
place and Ashlydyat. For the matter of that, I'd swear they were 
mine with all the pleasure in life, if they did get seen." 

" Ashlydyat ! " broke from Maria's lips. 

" Ashlydyat will have to go of course, and everything in it. At the 
same time that those harpies walk in here, another set will walk into 
Ashlydyat. I should like to see Janet's face when they arrive ! You 
make haste, and put up all you can. There may be no time to lose." 

" I do not think it would be right," debated Maria. 

" Stuff and nonsense about ^ right ! ' such things are done every day. 
I dare say you have many little valuables that you had rather keep 
than lose." 

I have many that it would be a great grief to me to lose." 

" Well, go and put them together. I will take every care of them, 
and return them to you when the affair has blown over." 

Maria hesitated. To her honourable mind, there appeared to be 
something like fraud in attempting such a thing. " Will you allow me 
just to ask Thomas Godolphin if I may do it ? " she said. 

Charlotte Pain began to think that Maria must be an idiot. " Ask 
Thomas Godolphin ! You would get an answer ! Why, Mrs. George, 
you know what Thomas Godolphin is — with his strait-laced principles ! 
He would cut himself in two, rather than save a button, if it was not 
legally his to save. I believe that if by the stroke of a pen he could 
make it appear that Ashlydyat could not be touched, he wouldn't make 
the stroke. Were you to go with such a question to Thomas Godol- 
phin, he'd order you, in his brother's name, not to put aside as much 
as a ten-and-sixpenny ring. You must do it without the knowledge of 
Thomas Godolphin." 

Then I think I would rather not do it," said Maria. " Thank you 
all the same, Mrs. Pain." * 

Mrs. Pain shrugged her shoulders with a movement of contempt, 
threw off her hat, and drew her chair to the breakfast-table. Maria 
poured out some coffee, and helped her to what she chose to take. 



A DREAD FEAR. 



327 



" Are you sure—the people you speak of will be in the house to-day ?" 
asked Maria. 

" I suppose they will." 

" I wish George would come back ? " involuntarily broke from Maria's 
hps. 

" He'd be a great simpleton if he did," said Charlotte. " He's safer 
where he is." 

" Safer from what ? " quickly asked Maria. 

" From bother. I should not come if I were George. I should let 
them fight the battle out without me. Mrs. George Godolphin," added 
Charlotte, meaning to be good-natured, " you had better reconsider 
your resolve and let me save you a few things. Not a stick or stone 
will be left to you. This will be a dreadful failure, and you won't be 
spared. They'll take every trinket you possess, leaving you nothing 
but your wedding-ring." 

Maria could not be persuaded. She seemed altogether in a fog, 
understanding little : but she felt that what Charlotte proposed would 
not be within the strict rules of right. 

" They'll poke their noses into drawers and boxes, into every hole 
and corner in the house ; and from that time forth the things are not 
yours, but theirs," persisted Charlotte, for her information. 

" I cannot help it," sighed Maria. I wish George was here ! " 

"At any rate, you'll do one thing," said Charlotte. You'll let me 
carry off the child for the day. It will not be a pleasant sight for her, 
young as she is, to witness a lot of great hulking men going through 
the rooms, marking down the furniture. I'll take her back with 
me." 

Maria made no immediate reply. She did not particularly like the 
companionship of Mrs. Pain for Meta. Charlotte saw her hesitation. 

" Are you thinking she will be a trouble ? Nothing of the sort. I 
shall be glad to have her for the day, and it is as well to spare her such 
sights. I am sure her papa would say so." 

Maria thought he would, and she thought how kind Mrs. Pain was. 
Charlotte turned to Meta. 

" Will Meta come and spend the day at Lady Godolphin's Folly ? — 
and have a high swing made betv/een the trees, and go out in the 
carriage in the afternoon, and buy sugar-plums ? " 

Meta looked dubious, and honoured Mrs. Pain with a full stare in 
the face. Notwithstanding the swing and the sugar-plums — both very 
great attractions indeed to Meta — certain reminiscences of her last 
visit to the Folly were intruding themselves. 

" Are the dogs there ? " asked she. 

Charlotte gave a most decided shake of the head. " The dogs are 
gone," she said. " They were naughty dogs to Meta, and they have 
been shut up in the pit-hole, and can never come out again." 

" Never, never ? " inquired Meta, her wide-open eyes as earnest as 
her tone. 

" Never," said Charlotte. " The great big pit-hole lid's fastened down 
with a strong brass chain : a chain as thick as Meta's arm. It is all 
right," added Charlotte in an aside whisper to Maria, while pretending 
to reach over the breakfast-table for an egg-spoon, " She shan't as 



328 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT, 



much as hear the dogs. I'll have them shut up in the stable. We'll 
have such a beautiful swing, Meta ! " 

Meta finished the remainder of her breakfast and slid off her chair. 
Reassured upon the subject of the dogs, she was eager to be off at once 
to the pleasures of the swing. Maria rang the bell for Harriet, and 
gave orders that she should be dressed. 

" Let her come in this frock," said Charlotte. " There's no knowing 
what damage it may undergo before the day's out." 

Meta was taken away by Harriet. Charlotte finished her breakfast, 
and Maria sat burying her load of care, even from the eyes of friendly 
Charlotte. ^' Do you like my Garibaldi shirt?" suddenly asked the 
latter. 

" Like what ? " questioned Maria, not catching the name. 

" This," replied Charlotte, indicating the yellow article by a touch. 
" They are new things just come up : Garibaldi shirts they are called. 
Mrs. Verrall sent me three down from London : a yellow, a scarlet, 
and a blue. They are all the rage, she says. Do you admire it ? " 

But for Maria's innate pohteness, and perhaps for the sadness beat- 
ing at her heart, she would have answered that she did not admire it 
at all : that it looked a shapeless, untidy thing. Charlotte continued, 
without waiting for a reply. 

" You don't see it to advantage. It is soiled, and has lost a button 
or two. Those dogs make horrid work of my things, with their rough- 
ness and their dirty paws. Look at this great rent in my gown which 
I have pinned up! Pluto did that this morning. He is getting fear- 
fully savage, now he's old." 

You must not allow them to frighten Meta," said Maria somewhat 
anxiously. She should not see them." 

I have told you she shall not. Can't you trust me ? The dogs " 

Charlotte paused. Meta came running in, ready ; in her large straw 
hat with its flapping brim, and her cool brown-holland outdoor dress. 
Charlotte rose, drew her shawl about her sho alders, and carried her 
hat to the glass, to settle it on. Then she took Meta by the hand, said 
good morning, and sailed out ; the effect of her visit having been partly 
to frighten, partly to perplex, Maria. 

Maria sat on with her load of care, and her new apprehensions. 
These agreeable visitors that Charlotte warned her of — she wondered 
that Thomas had not mentioned it. Would they take all the clothes 
she had upstairs, leaving her only what she stood upright in ? Would 
they take Meta's ? Would they take her husband's out of his drawers 
and places ? Would they take the keeper off her finger ? It was 
studded with diamonds. Charlotte had said they would only leave 
her her wedding-ring. These thoughts were troubling c::id perplexing 
her ; but only in a degree. Compared with that other terrible thought, 
they were as nothing — the uncertain fear, regarding her husband, 
which had been whispered to her by the careless sailor, Reginald 
Hastings. 



( 329 ) 



CHAPTER XXIL 

BEARING THE BRUNT. 

Thomas GodOLPHIN sat in the Bank parlour, bearing the brunt of the 
shock. With his pain upon him, mental and bodily, he was facing all 
the trouble that George ought to have faced : the murmurs, the ques- 
tions, the reproaches. 

All was known. All was known to Thomas Godolphin. Not alone 
to him. Could Thomas have kept the terrible facts within his own 
breast, have shielded his brother's reputation still, he would have done 
it : but that was impossible. In becoming known to Mr. Godolphin, 
it had become known to others. The discovery had been made jointly, 
by Thomas and by certain business gentlemen, when he was in London 
on the Saturday afternoon. Treachery upon treachery ! The long 
course of deceit on George Godolphin's part had come out. Falsified 
books ; wrongly-rendered accounts ; good securities replaced by false ; 
false balance-sheets. Had Thomas Godolphin been less blindly trust- 
ful in George's honour and integrity, it could never have been so effec- 
tually accomplished. George Godolphin was the acting manager : and 
Thomas, in his perfect trust, combined with his failing health, had left 
things latterly almost entirely in George's hands. " What business had 
he so to leave them ? " People were asking it now. Perhaps Thomas's 
own conscience was asking the same. But why should he not have 
left things to him, considering that he placed in him the most implicit 
confidence ? Surely, no unprejudiced man would say Thomas Godol- 
phin had been guilty of imprudence. George was fully equal to the 
business confided to him, in point of power and capacity ; and it could 
not certainly matter which of the brothers, equal partners, equal heads 
of the firm, took its practical management. It would seem not : and 
yet they were blaming Thomas Godolphin now. 

Failures of this nature have been recorded before, where fraud has 
played its part. We have only to look to the records of our law 
courts — criminal, bankruptcy, and civil — for examples. To transcribe 
the precise means by which George Godolphin had contrived to bear 
on in a course of deceit, to elude the suspicion of the world in general, 
and the vigilance of his own house, would only be to recapitulate what 
has often been told in the public records : and told to so much more 
purpose than I could tell it. It is rather with what may be called the 
domestic phase of these tragedies that I would deal : the private, home 
details; the awful wreck of peace, of happiness, caused there. The 
world knows enough (rather too much, sometimes) of the public part of 
these affairs ; but what does it know of the part behind the curtain 1 — • 
the, if it may be so said, inner aspect ? 

I knew a gentleman, years ago, who was partner in a country 
banking-house: a sleeping partner; and the Bank failed. Failed 
through a long-continued course of treachery on the part of one con- 
i)ected with it — something like the treachery described to you as pur- 



330 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



sued by Mr. George Godolphin. This gentleman (of whom I tell you) 
was to be held responsible for the losses, so the creditors and others 
decided : the real dehnquent having disappeared, escaped beyond their 
reach. They lavished upon this gentleman harsh names ; rogue, thief, 
swindler, and so on ! — while, in point of fact, he was as innocent and 
unconscious of what had happened as they were. He gave up all he 
had ; the bulk of his fortune had gone with the Bank ; and he went out 
of hearing of his abusers for a while until things should become 
smoother; perhaps the bad man be caught. A short time, and he 
became ill ; and a medical man was called in to him. Again, a short 
time, and he was dead: and the doctors said — I heard them say it — 
that his malady had been brought on by grief ; that he had, in fact, 
died of a broken heart. He was a kindly gentleman ; a good husband, 
a good father, a good neighbour ; a single-hearted, honest man ; the 
very soul of honour: but he was misjudged by those who ought to 
have known him better ; and he died for it. I wonder what the real 
rogue felt when he heard of the death ? They were relatives. There 
are many such cases in the world : where reproach and abuse are 
levelled at one whose heart is breaking. 

There appeared to be little doubt that George Godolphin's embar- 
rassments had commenced years ago. It is more than probable that 
the money borrowed from Verrall during that short sojourn in Homburg 
had been its precursor. Once in the hands of the clever charlatan, the 
crafty, unscrupulous bill-discounter, who grew fat on the folly of others, 
his downward course was — perhaps not easy or swift, but at all events 
certain. If George Godolphin had but been a little more clear-sighted, 
the evil might never have come. Could he but have seen Verrall at 
the outset as he was : not the gentleman, the good-hearted man, as 
George credulously beUeved, but the low fellow who traded on the 
needs of others, the designing sharper, looking ever after his prey, 
George would have flung him off with no other feeling than contempt. 
George Godolphin was not born a rogue. George was by nature a 
gentleman, and honest and open ; but, once in the clutches of Verrall, 
he was not able to escape. 

Bit by bit, step by step, gradually, imperceptibly, George found him- 
self caught. He awoke to the fact that he could neither stir upwards 
nor downwards. He could not extricate himself; he could not go on 
without exposure ; Verrall, or Verrall's agents, those working in con- 
cert with him, though not ostensibly, stopped the supplies, and George 
was in a fix. Then began the frauds upon the Bank. Slightly at first. 
It was only a choice between that and exposure. Between that and 
ruin, it may be said, for George's liabilities were so great, that, if 
brought to a climax, they must then have caused the Bank to stop, 
involving Thomas in ruin as well as himself. In his sanguine tempera- 
ment, too, he was always hoping that some lucky turn would redeem 
the bad and bring all right again. It was Verrall who urged him on. 
It was Verrall who, with Machiavellian craft, made the wrong appear 
right ; it was Verrall who had filled his pockets at the expense of 
George's. That Verrall had been the arch-tempter, and George the 
arch-dupe, was clear as the sun at noonday to those who were behind 
the scenes. Unfortunately but very few were behind the scenes — they 



BEARING THE BRUNT. 



331 



might be counted by units — and Verrall and Co. could still blazon it 
before the world. 

The wonder was, where the money had gone to. It very often is the 
wonder in these cases. A wonder too often never solved. An awful 
amount of money had gone in some way ; the mystery was, in what 
way. George Godolphin had kept up a large establishment ; had been 
personally extravagant, privately as well as publicly ; but that did not 
serve to account for half the money missing ; not for a quarter of it ; 
nay, scarcely for a tithe. Had it been to save himself from hanging, 
George himself could not have told how or where it had gone. When 
the awful sum total came to be added up, to stare him in the face, he 
looked at it in blank amazement. And he had no good to show for it ; 
none ; the money had melted, and he could not tell how. 

Of course it had gone to the discounters. The tide of discounting 
once set in, it was something like the nails in the horseshoe, doubHng, 
and doubling, and doubling. The money went, and there was nothing 
to show for it. Little marvel that George Godolphin stood aghast at 
the sum total, when the amount was raked up — or, as nearly the 
amount as could be guessed at. When George could no longer furnish 
legitimate funds on his own account, the Bank was laid under contri- 
bution to supply them, and George had to enter upon a system of 
ingenuity to conceal the outgoings. When those contributions had 
been levied to the very utmost extent compatible with the avoidance 
of sudden and immediate discovery, and George was at his wits' end 
for money, which he must have, then Verrall whispered a way which 
George at first revolted from, but which resulted in taking the deeds 
of Lord Averil. Had the crash not come as it did, other deeds might 
have been taken. It is impossible to say. Such a course once entered 
on is always downhill. Like unto some other downward courses, the 
only safety lies in not yielding to the first temptation. 

Strange to say, George Godolphin could not see the rogue's part 
played by Verrall : or at best he saw it but very imperfectly. And 
yet, not strange ; for there are many of these cases in the world. 
George had been on intimate terms of friendship with Verrall; had 
been ///, it may be said, with him and Lady Godolphin's Folly. Mrs. 
Verrall was pretty. Charlotte had her attractions. Altogether, George 
believed yet in Verrall. Let the dagger's point only be concealed with 
flowers, and men will rush blindly on to it. 

Thomas Godolphin sat, some books before him, pondering the one 
weighty question — where could all the money have gone to? Until 
the present moment, this morning when he had the books before him, 
and his thoughts were more practically directed to business details, he 
had been pondering another weighty question — where had George's 
integrity gone to ? Whither had flown his pride in his fair name, the 
honour of the Godolphins ? From the Saturday afternoon when the 
dreadful truth came to Hght, Thomas had had little else in his thoughts. 
It was his companion through the Sunday, through the night journey 
afterwards down to Prior's Ash. He was more fit for bed than to take 
that journey : but he must face the exasperated men from whom George 
had flown. 

He was facing them now. People had been coming in since nine 



332 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



o'clock with their reproaches, and Thomas Godolphin bore them 
patiently and answered them meekly : the tones of his voice low, sub- 
dued, as if they came from the sadness of a stricken heart. He felt 
their wrongs keenly. Could he have paid these injured men by cutting 
himself to pieces, and satisfied them with the pound of flesh," he 
would have done so, oh how willingly ! He would have sacrificed his 
life and his happiness (his happiness !) and done it cheerfully, if by that 
means they could have been paid their due. 

It's nothing but a downright swindle. I'll say it, sir, to your face, 
and I can't help saying it. Here I bring the two thousand pounds in 
my hand, and I say to Mr. George Godolphin, ' Will it be safe ? ^ 
' Yes,' he answers me, ' it will be safe.' And now the Bank has shut up, 
and Where's my money?" 

The speaker was Barnaby, the corn-dealer. What was Thomas 
Godolphin to answer ? 

" You told me, sir, on Saturday, that the Bank would open again to- 
day for business ; that customers would be paid in full." 

I told you but what I beheved," rose the quiet voice of Thomas 
Godolphin in answer. Mr. Barnaby, believe me this blow has come 
upon no one more unexpectedly than it has upon me." 

"Well, sir, I don't know what may be your mode of carrying on 
business, but I should be ashamed to conduct mine so as to let ruin 
come slap upon me, and not have seen it coming." 

Again, what was Thomas Godolphin to answer.'^ Generous to the 
end, he would not say, " My brother has played us both alike false." 
" If I find that any care or caution of mine could have averted this, 
Mr. Barnaby, I shall carry remorse to my grave," was all he replied. 

" What sort of a dividend will there be 1 " went on the dealer. 

" I really cannot tell you yet, Mr. Barnaby. I have no idea. We 
must have time to go through the books." 

" Where 2> Mr. George Godolphin .f^" resumed the applicant; and it 
was a very natural question. " Mr. Hurde says he is away, but it is 
strange that he should be away at such a time as this. I should like 
to ask him a question or two." 

"He is in London,'- replied Thomas Godolphin. 

" But what's he gone to London for now? And when is he coming 
back ? " 

More puzzling questions. Thomas had to bear the pain of many 
such that day. He did not say, "My brother is gone, we know not 
why; in point of fact he has run away." He spoke aloud the faint 
hopes that rose within his own breast- — that some train, ere the day 
was over, would bring him back to Prior's Ash. 

" Don't you care, Mr. Godolphin," came the next wailing plaint, " for 
the ruin that the loss of this money will bring upon me ? I have a 
wife and children, sir." 

" I do care," Thomas answered, his throat husky and a mist before 
his eyes. " For every pang that this calamity will inflict on others, it 
inflicts two on me." 

Mr. Hurde, who was busy with more books in his own department, 
in conjunction with some clerks, came in to ask a question, his pen be« 
hind his car ; and Mr. Barnaby, seeing no good to be derived by 



BEARING THE BRUNT. 



333 



i-emaihing, went out. Little respite had Thomas Godolphin. The next 
to come in was the Rector of All Souls'. 

" What is to become of me ? " was his saluting question, spoken in 
his clear, decisive tone. " How am I to refund this money to my 
wards, the Chisholms ? " 

Thomas Godolphin had no satisfactory reply to make. He missed 
the friendly hand held out hitherto in greeting. Mr. Hastings did not 
take a chair, but stood up near the table, firm, stern, and uncom- 
promising. 

" I hear George is off," he continued. 

"He has gone to London, Maria informs me," repHed Thomas 
Godolphin. 

" Mr. Godolphin, can you sit there and tell me that you had no sus- 
picion of the way things were turning ? That this ruin has come on, 
and you ignorant of it ? " 

" I had no suspicion ; none whatever. None can be more utterly 
surprised than L There are moments when a feehng comes over me 
that it cannot be true." 

*^ Could you live in intimate association with your brother, and not 
see that he was turning out a rogue and a vagabond ? " went on the 
Rector in his keenest and most cynical tone. 
" I knew nothing, I suspected nothing," was the quiet reply of Thomas. 
" How dared he take that money from me the other night, when he 
knew that he was on the verge of ruin?" asked Mr. Hastings. " He 
took it from me ; he never entered it in the books ; he applied it, 
there's no doubt, to his own infamous purposes. When a suspicion 
was whispered to me afterwards, that the Bank was wrong, I came 
here to him. I candidly spoke of what I had heard, and asked him 
to return me ithe money, as a friend, a relative. Did he return it ? 
No : his answer was a false, plausible assurance that the money and 
the Bank were alike safe. What does he call it? Robbery? It is 
worse : it is deceit ; fraud ; vile swindhng. In the old days, many a 
man has swung for less, Mr. Godolphin." 
Thomas Godolphin could not gainsay it. 

" Nine thousand and forty-five pounds ! " continued the Rector. 
" How am I to make it good ? How am I to find money only for the 
education of Chisholm's children? He confided them and their money 
to me; and how have I repaid the trust?" 

Every word he spoke was as a dagger entering the heart of Thomas 
Godolphin. He could only sit still, and bear. Had the malady that 
was carrying him to the grave never before shown itself, the days of 
anguish he had now entered upon would have been sufficient to 
induce it. 

" If I find that Maria knew of this, that she was in league with her 
husband to deceive me, I shall feel inclined to discard her from my 
affections from henceforth," resumed the indignant Rector. " It was 
an unlucky day when I gave my consent to her marrying George 
Godolphin. I never in my heart liked his addressing her. It must 
have been instinct warned me against it." 

" I am convinced that Maria has known nothing," said Thomas 
Godolphin. "She " 



334 



THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. 



Mr. Godolphiu stopped. Angry sounds had arisen outside, and 
presently the door was violently opened, and quite a crowd of clamorous 
people entered, ready to abuse Thomas Godolphin, George not being 
there to receive it. There was no question but that that day's work 
took weeks from his short remaining span of life. Could a man's 
heart break summarily, Thomas Godolphin's would have broken then. 
Many men would have retaliated : he felt their griefs, their wrongs, as 
keenly as they did. They told him of their ruin, of the desolation, 
the misery it would bring to them, to their wives and families ; some 
spoke in a respectful tone of quiet plaint, some were loud, unreasonable, 
insulting. They demanded what dividend there would be : some asked 
in a covert tone to have their bit of money returned in full ; some gave 
vent to most unorthodox language touching George Godolphin ; they 
openly expressed their opinion that Thomas was conniving at his 
absence ; they hinted that he was as culpable as the other. 

None of them appeared to glance at the great fact — that Thomas 
Godolphin was the greatest sufferer of all. If they had lost part of 
their means, he had lost all his. Did they remember that this terrible 
misfortune, which they were blaming him for, would leave hmi a 
beggar upon the face of the earth? He, a gentleman born to wealth, 
to Ashlydyat, to a position of standing in the county, to honour, to 
respect? It had all been rent away by the blow, to leave him homeless 
and penniless, sick with an incurable malady. Had they only reflected, 
they might have found that Thomas Godolphin deserved their condo- 
lence rather than their abuse. 

But they were in no mood to reflect, or to spare him in their angry 
feelings ; they gave vent to all the soreness within them — and perhaps 
it was excusable. 

The Rector of All Souls' had had his say, and strode forth. Making 
his way to the dining-room, he knocked sharply with his stick on the 
door, and then entered. Maria rose and came forward : something 
very like terror on her face. The kjiock had frightened her : it had 
conjured up visions of the visitors suggested by Mrs. Charlotte Pain. 

''Where is George Godolphin?" 

"He is in London, papa," she answered, her heart sinking at the 
stern tone, the abrupt greeting. 

When do you expect him home?" 

" I do not know. He did not tell me when he went ; except that he 
should be home soon. Will you not sit down, papa ? " 

'' No. When I brou